Each December (for the last 3, counting this one), I attend a conference called “Refresh” sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism for United Methodists in Campus Ministry. This year, I was on the design team, which meant that I watched things a little more closely than I have in the past (and I didn’t quite get as “refreshed” as I have the other years!). I posted following the first one a couple of years ago, and I wanted to post a couple of observations this year, too.
- First of all, community is irreplacable. Several of my friends from seminary (and beyond) attend this conference, but I’ve also begun to form community with others that I would never have known without meeting them through the common bond of campus ministry in the United Methodist Church. We all come from very different backgrounds (sometimes theologically, and sometimes the context of our ministries), but we like each other and we are united around a common goal: living out the gospel among younger adults in the context of the United Methodist Church. That is enough to join us together. I certainly get my “emotional cup” refilled to overflowing when I attend Refresh! Thanks be to God!
- Second of all, at this particular conference, there seemed to be a stirring of the Holy Spirit around the ideas of simplicity, living in community and living spiritual practices. I make this statement with this qualification: we often say these things, but this week, I believed the people who said them. Our line-up was interesting: Chris Seay, the guy in charge of the Ekklesia Project; Sean Gladding (who was a classmate of mine at Asbury), co-pastor of Mercy Street Ministries (and an insightful bible teacher!!!!), a community in Houston; and Dr. Elaine Heath, a theologian from Perkins School of Theology at SMU (there were others, but these three were most notable to me). My personal response to the combination of these messages is this: We live fractured, busy, consuming lives, even if we are “Christians.” However, the message of the gospel, found in the enduring pages of Scripture and lived out by communities of Christians, provides a message of completion and redemption to counter our own misaligned attempts. The single most important feature of living this type of life is true, life-giving, intentional Christian community (see above–a “full” emotional cup, not to mention living the Kingdom here on earth!).
- Thirdly, at a personal level, I was confirmed in some thoughts that I’ve had, and have shared with students, about the possibility of having a home for some of our amazing college students that is dedicated to hospitality, intentional Christian community, and spiritual practices. Elaine and others are starting homes like this in the Dallas area, and maybe elsewhere! Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on this in the upcoming months, but trust me, I’m excited!
Despite the fact that I somehow ended up more tired at the end of my time together with 160 others that love college aged students, I am incredibly excited about the work of God’s Spirit in the ministries of my colleagues around the country! May God continue to breathe even more life into all of our ministries!
(For another perspective on Refresh, see my colleague and mentor, Steve Rankin’s, blog here.)
Hey Ashlee! It was great getting to meet you at Refresh! I hope this spring is wonderful for you and your ministry!<3
Ashlee, Elaine Heath told me that you applied to Perkins’ doctoral program and that you have an interest in New Day and Epworth. I’m deeply involved in both of these things (I live at Epworth) and will be interning with New Day next year (I’m in my 3rd year at Perkins). I’d love to talk to you about your interest, as it seems like our stories would overlap a bit (from the bit I read here).
Megan,Elaine told me about you when I met her in Houston! I would love for you to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you!Ashlee