Arriving in Tennessee for the Georgia Cumberland GODencounters Conference felt like one of those vaguely familiar dreams. You know, the kind you wake up the next morning and have no clue what you dreamt, except later, sometimes much later, things feel like deja vu?
In recent years attendance at the camp meeting young adult division had dwindled to a couple dozen on the opening Wednesday night, and a couple hundred over the weekend if you were lucky. But this year, Lisa Hope and her GODencounters [GE] team sought to subvert the downward spiral, creating what Lisa calls “a safe place to worship.”
Over the past months, focused on intentional prayer and preparation, the leadership team has worked diligently to transform the anemic program into a GODencounters gathering. Consultations, meditating on the theme, email dialogue, and planning sessions filled the days leading up to GE. The team arrived on site prepped to work but cautious about expecting anything more than “the same as always.”
Opening night of encounters cafe was electric. Installed in the recently remodeled KR’s Place on the Southern Adventist University campus, encounters cafe had just the right mix of informality and space intimacy to give it a warm, inviting vibe. The room was packed and attendance at the cafe would only grow through the weekend.
The mix of refreshments [although we can’t vouch for Brennon’s frappacino], casual conversation, worship leading and experiences offered cafe patrons a delightful introduction to GODencounters. Lisa led in the worship experience, intended to invite “those with eye to see;” Echoing the words of Jeremiah 24/7 as a call to return to GOD with open hearts.
Fun interactivity around tables made for relevant Biblical object lessons of how we need each other to see–How worshipping as a body of Christ gives sight to the blind and turns our faces towards GOD.
It was powerful for me to observe a dream unfolding. Being near the door, I made note of a particular young adult as she surveyed the cafe scene. Initially she peered through the front window of KR’s Place, curious as to the commotion. A bit later, she peeked her head inside the doorway, seeming unsure about it all–then made the move to mouse her way towards an open spot in the filling cafe. I was going to welcome her, but thought that would only subvert her efforts to covertly mix into the cafe crowd.
I lost track of this anonymous patron, probably because she intentionally “slid in” not wanting to draw attention. But next thing I knew, she was laughing, chatting, even donning an eye-patch to join others huddled round a table for the group worship experience.
It reminded me of our first encounters cafe, seven years ago; Young adults hungry for community and GOD, coming around the corner and finding a space to relax, refresh, and relate to GOD and others. It did feel like a recurring dream, and my heart was warmed by the deja vu of Jesus doing what He’s always done for GODseekers.
The dream is coming clearer to me now. It’s the hope of these “safe sacred spaces” emerging everywhere as new generations return to the heart of worship. It’s the wish for worship to become a way of community — a way of communicating, a way of connecting, a way of caring — a way of life.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” –Psalms 84:10 [NIV]
God, thanks for a day to dwell in Your dream. I am glad to simply be the doorkeeper, and to find that door wide open, inviting us continually into your presence.
It’s my prayer that GOD will keep fulfilling the dream and honoring our pursuit of a 24/7 experience of Him.