Jake and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this past weekend by heading to the Windy City for The Justice Conference 2015. We had a fantastic time! Here’s why:
I LOVE Chicago. Great people, great artists, great ideas. We stayed at the HI Chicago and it was a GREAT experience. I was a little unsure about hosteling, but now I wonder if I’ll ever NOT do it, given the option. The accommodations were clean, the people were friendly and interesting, and the location was PERFECT. We literally walked across the street to go to the conference.
2. The Auditorium Theater
The Justice Conference took place in the Auditorium Theater- it is GORGEOUS! Every seat was a good one, and I thought it was so cool that some people could watch it all from little side boxes- ha (excuse Jake’s blurry face in the pic below, and look at those seats- so romantic :))! For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Auditorium Theater is just a couple block walk from Lake Michigan, and very near Millennium Park, which was a great place to walk around during the breaks.
3. The Expo
Across the street from the Auditorium, they had an Expo with a bunch of organizations and publishers represented. I was like a kid in the candy store with all of those publishers in ONE PLACE and selling books at a discounted price. IVP took most of my money (thank you very much!). A couple organizations represented that we particularly enjoyed talking with:
Plough Publishers: A publishing house from upstate New York, the woman at the table were so fantastic to talk with. This group has a deep commitment to resources that encourage people to put their faith in action, specifically in the areas of peacemaking, forgiveness, christian discipleship, the valuing of children, environmental consciousness, etc. As a bonus, they were giving away free books (I think the only one there at the conference doing so!).
Micah Challenge: I have come to really love this organization. I reviewed a book they just put out a few months ago, which was a must-have because it was SO PRACTICAL. So sure, perhaps we aren’t going to lobby in Congress or go to Palestine, but there are so many things that we can do in our daily lives that help make the world more just. I had a great discussion with a guy at the booth who explained about some legislature that Congress passed several years ago that isn’t being followed yet. It was a fascinating to hear about the process of going to Obama’s office, talking to his staff, giving signatures, etc. This is an organization making things happen in the name of Jesus.
4. Diversity of Speakers
I have been to quite a few conferences, and despite peoples’ (so-called) best efforts, I can almost guarantee that there will be 90% white men speaking, with 1 token woman (normally being interviewed), and 1 token minority. This conference was different. People from all different backgrounds were speaking or being interviewed on stage and IT WAS SO REFRESHING. I have a whole new group of amazing men and women to learn from and follow on social media. I feel sad that I’m just hearing about them now! Just to name a few: Eugene Cho, Soong-Chan Rah, Austin Channing, Rev Traci Blackmon, and Gabriel Salguero.
5. Worship (through music and poetry) Sessions
We were led in worship by a wide variety of people– Micah Bournes, Malcolm London, David Crowder, Rend Collective and a fantastic worship band (David Bailey, Angie Wong, and a few others– those of you who were there- help me out!). We even sang a song in Spanish and Urdu which I thought was really meaningful. I’d love to do that more often!
6. Hard Conversations
The topic of racial inequality and white privilege (or white supremacy) was a big topic discussed, preached on, and expressed through poetry and art. I learned a lot, was able to confront some of my own biases, and was reminded how much I’m unaware of a reality that exists for so many people. My toes got stepped on a little, and while I didnt agree with every word said about it, it was a great chance to listen and learn from people from different perspectives.
7. A Like-Minded Community
While I’m sure we were all different in a lot of ways, we all love Jesus and feel a deep commitment to loving our neighbors, both here and far, in ways that cause us to suffer and to sacrifice. As Dr. Cornel West said, “To love is to learn how to die.” It was great to be reminded that there are many others who see the essentialness of justice to the Gospel, and who aren’t so caught up in pursuing the American Dream that they lose sight of the call to love the marginalized. It reminds me that I’m not crazy. A girl needs that reminder every now and then.
If I ever have a conference (I mean, just pretend with me), this lady is at the top of my list to ask to host. Amena is a beautiful woman who is real, funny, and a little bit sassy. She was the perfect host for this conference!!
My main takeaway from this conference is that my necessary next step is to get serious about surrounding myself with other voices, voices that aren’t white men and women. I bought a couple books there that will start me in on the process, but I’m also subscribing to a few new blogs (and unsubscribing to others). In a week we’ll be having our next Racial Bridges study here in Madison, which is where the real life community discussion and movement is happening. I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years and commit to learning more from others who don’t look or sound or worship like me.