Rooted in Jesus
In January, more than two dozen lay and clergy leaders from across EDUSC gathered with more than 1,000 Episcopalians in Atlanta for the first-ever Rooted in Jesus conference. This gathering was collaboration between several Episcopal organizations, such as Forma, ECF, Evangelism Matters, and the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, among others.
We're collecting reflections from participants, organizers, and speakers, and will share them below.
From Elizabeth Bentrup
Parishioner at St. Martin's in the Fields, Columbia
Coordinator of Rooted in Jesus
Less than a year ago, I participated in a site visit to Crowne Plaza-Midtown Atlanta in preparation for an event called Rooted in Jesus. We met with staff, discussed plans and hopes for the space, and were received with wide eyes and skeptical, raised brows. And yet, the response we got was, “We can try!”
We also visited All Saints’ Episcopal Church. They had agreed to a general idea of hosting, and it was time to nail down some details. Our plans exceeded their previous experience. And they said, “Here’s what we’ve got. How can we help?”
This gathering was a collaborative experiment. We weren’t working from plans. We were working from hope. And inspiration. And a nudge from the Holy Spirit that said, “This can work.” The planning process was a little uncomfortable. There weren’t a lot of “knowns,” and there were a heck of a lot of “unknowns.”
But the Holy Spirit is not concerned with our anxieties. The Holy Spirit stoked the flames of hope and inspiration and throughout the conference, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control were plentiful, y’all.
Fast forward to the last day of Rooted in Jesus 2020. The Rev. Dr. Mark Jefferson preached (and I mean PREACHED) about confronting our comfortable Christology. (I could quote it all day for you, but take the 20 minutes to listen.) Jefferson provided an allegory that described our roots stagnating in a pot that’s too small, that maybe our pot needs to be broken, so our roots can spread out and thrive. He went on to say that maybe we are too comfortable in our little pot and our version of Jesus that fits in that pot. (There’s just so much good in that sermon. Please go listen.)
Our two host sites allowed us to break their pot. They were willing to expand beyond what was comfortable for them. And God blessed the work that came as a result. Story upon story exists of how the energy, creativity, and enthusiasm required to meet us where we wanted to be lifted up those who served and worked and volunteered at these sites. They were blessed by saying yes. And then what did their generosity of spirit do for Rooted’s participants? Those individuals can tell you that story.
EDUSC had a sizeable contingent attend the conference as seekers, presenters, exhibitors, and planners. As they have time to process their reflections of their time in Atlanta, we’ll share their experiences and some of the resources they brought home to Upper South Carolina. In the meantime, listen to the sermon, consider your roots, examine your pot and pray about how you can move further up and further in to the kingdom that’s right here. To follow and meet JesUS in our own diocese and in our neighborhoods.
From Katelyn Kenney
EDUSC Missioner for Formation and Congregational Vitality
Presenter at Rooted in Jesus
I remember seeing a map shared by the conference organizers showing registrants from almost every state, and that’s when I knew Rooted in Jesus was going to be special.
Clearly, I wasn’t the only person excited for an Episcopal gathering of this magnitude. My colleagues and I would talk about Rooted months in advance, sharing how much we looked forward to seeing old friends again and exploring topics of interest within the Church. I would often describe it as “a big Episco-party.” When the time came to head to Atlanta, we could hardly wait.
The opening plenary session was electric. I’d expect nothing less from the Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign. Barber spoke about the heresy of worshipping God without a conscience, which immediately set the tone for the next few days. There was no beating around the bush here; Barber wanted us to confront what’s going in today’s world head-on and ask ourselves if not us, the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, then who?
Late that evening, the Diocese of Atlanta hosted an amazing revival, highlighting their diocesan priorities moving forward: youth, prisoners, veterans, and refugees. Representatives from each of those four priorities shared a piece of their story with the crowd, and it was an honor to witness. And of course, it wouldn’t be a revival without Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. In between jokes about Delta Airlines and references to “Talladega Nights” and Sweet Baby Jesus, Bishop Curry drove home that the essence of being ‘rooted in Jesus’ is love. What a way to kick-off a conference.
The next day, after sorting through the plethora of workshops and heading to the ones that piqued my interest, I began to worry I wouldn’t be able to take it all in, that’d I miss information or forget to note something that might be of value to me in the future. I thought of the sponge analogy, but more realistically: I had so much I wanted to absorb, but even sponges can’t hold everything. Being so new, the question of, “do I even belong here?” hung over me, not as heavy as a storm cloud, but more like a light mist, slightly blurring the opportunity in front of me. I don’t have the same level of experience as my peers. I barely know what I’m doing. What do I have to share that these people don’t already know? That last insecurity was very present as I co-led a workshop on where some people in the room had more ministry experience than I had years living on this earth.
What helped me fend off those negative thoughts was being surrounded and supported by people I’ve come to know and respect in these few months in South Carolina as well as by people I’ve known and loved (and who have known and loved me) for years. I couldn’t go a single hour without bumping into a colleague or catching up with a friend or hugging someone I hadn’t seen in a while. Even my youth minister from back when I was in junior high and high school was there! Seeing all those friends in one place encouraged me and reminded me I’m not alone in my work and that my network, as well as my ministry experience, is ever-growing.
Yes, I attended fantastic workshops about building intergenerational relationships and empowering young leaders and assessing stages of spiritual development—all things I can directly apply to my work here in this diocese. But I think my biggest takeaway was that I am—we are—part of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. And that means we all have each other, to learn from one another, to share ideas and resources, and, with God’s help, to come together in love, being firmly rooted in Jesus, to transform the world.
From Ellen Fancis, OSH
Attendee and Exhibitor at Rooted in Jesus
The “Rooted in Jesus” conference was amazing. I spent most of my time at the Order of Saint Helena booth and was delighted to find that I was having a deeper level of conversation with attendees than I’ve experienced at General Convention or even at diocesan conventions. The reasons for our time together were to make spiritual connections, go deeper in our faith journey, love one another, and love Jesus. No legislation, no business meetings, no resolutions— as important as those are to our corporate life. One comment I heard was, “This is the church convention I’ve been waiting for all my life.”
After coming home, I’ve been reflecting on the experience. Last week I read about the call by Bishop Curry and other Christian leaders to fast on Wednesdays and to pray for the state of our country and the world. I have had a practice of fasting in the past and felt really drawn to participate in this as I can appropriately at my age and with my work responsibilities. Jesus is always calling us to step up higher, in ministry, in prayer, and in commitment to the beloved community.
Tags: Stories from EDUSC