Christianity 21 Roundup: a few thoughts from backstage

Posted on November 3, 2009


Christianity 21 Roundup: a few thoughts from backstage

BY Rachel Swan


This post appeared originally at Rachel’s blog, The Sweet Bi and Bi, on October 17, 2009 and has been cross-posted here with Rachel’s permission.



Last week in an unlikely place of beauty—Edina, MN, known for its wealth and whiteness—a whole bunch of people gathered to listen, contribute and participate in Christianity 21. This is my reflection on that time. A word/warning–I was a volunteer. I missed out on sessions I really longed to hear like Debbie Blue, Makeesha Fisher, and Lisa Domke. I bounced in and out. I spent time seeing and participating in stuff around, and not necessarily IN Christianity 21.

So, like so many others from the event, it has taken me quite a few days to process what this feeling is that I am sitting in, left with, hanging on to, watching unfold. What I can say unequivocally is that I feel deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to participate. It was a bit like watching history get made. Here are my standouts:

  1. Mike Croghan and Amy Moffitt. Mike has been a bloggy friend for a long time, and asked if my beloved and I would be able to host him and his really awesome friend. I had been holding the space in our home open for just such an ask (could insert a stewardship lesson here, but I will save that for another time). For 5 days my home was filled with laughter, tears, kindness, intelligence, and goodness. I got some serious hang time with people who have forever helped me be a better person. Christianity 21, like the Great Emergence event last December, has first and foremost been about new, deeper, unexpected relationships. I met a lot of people at #c21, and am left with this reminder of the gifts that lie ahead when we open our selves, our homes, our lives to one another.
  2. I was a concierge, which means I was assigned to a few presenters to help them get from place to place, and made sure that their needs were being met (like, do you have enough food, water? Do you need anything that I can get for you? Etc.). I was assigned to my friends Seth Donovan and Nadia Bolz-Weber, as well as offering rides and other duties as needed to 11 other folks. I can’t imagine a time where I will be someone up there, presenting on something, sounding all smart and innovative. And I am ok with that. But what a joy to be out here, doing what I DO do best: hospitality and helping. I love that I got to be a part of something that for me flattened the hierarchy and said that what each of us brought was important–vital even–to the conversation. No, I wasn’t able to be in each session, but I was invited to take part, and I did that, and it feels like a little glimpse into what Kingdom work can be about. In listening to others, it seems like everyone felt like they got to do this, in their own way. And isn’t that a beautiful thing? participation in deep, true, authentic, transforming ways.
  3. I don’t want to gush and gush about JoPa, but in order to really get at the heart of this thing and I have to gush a little bit. Seth Donovan said “i watched two straight, white men spend (and disrupt) their privilege.  they had access to venues, connections to people, support from sponsors, budgets to watch, and reputations to maintain, and they organized an event that supported the leadership and voices of folks who have been asked to take the backseat in the church.  and asked other folks who have similar privilege to show up for it.  and we were transformed.” So right on. They dreamed up an event that may not have made economic sense, but for sure made Kingdom sense. They could have done the same old same old and given the “big names” top billing, more time, more _____. But they didn’t, they held to this crazy ass economy of G-d, that there was an abundance in “unlikely” places, we sat at the feet of each other, all of us. In the Kingdom sometimes the last are first and the first ARE last, right? And the thing is, the rewards of this may not even be realized anytime soon. Brave. Humbitious. Beautiful. Well done, JoPa.
  4. Queermergent. I had the privilege of spending time with a new and good friend, @mojojules aka The Wonderer. After Jenell Paris‘ presentation, in which she posed the question “Is homosexuality a sin?” there was some chitter chatter on the tweets, some butts (like mine) shifting in the pews and a real desire to continue the conversation about being queer and Christian. So–again, like at the Great Emergence in Memphis–we made it happen. Jules offered us a place and time to meet. So, late on Saturday, about 15 (??) of us gathered in the lobby of the hotel and spent time. We asked questions and came out about where we were in our own journeys of the faith and queer wondering. The conversation was honest, rich, and challenging at times. I was reminded again why having a queer voice and presence in the 21st century church is so vital. We are a gift, we are a part of the Body of Christ, we are an other to some, a friend and family member to so many.
  5. I am torn; I want to name names, gush and go on about people. I want to give props to people, not for what they said but for who they are. You each warm my heart and spoke to me, whether we met and spoke, or in many cases, not. I connected with some, others I just observed awkwardly. I don’t want to name names, so as to not forget anyone. So if you were there, whether we connected or not, you are on my list. Thank you, all of you. And a special wink and smile for you who I call friend. You shaped me most of all. I look forward to next time.

I will be purchasing the C21 Multi-Media Pack. I look forward not only to hearing more, listening more closely, but to looking for (like JoPa did) those voices that are shaping the 21st Century church. Perhaps one of those voices, people, ideas, things is right here in my possession and its dying to be shared. I feel invited. I feel connected. I am so grateful.

Check out the #C21 hashtag on twitter for other blog posts, links to resources, and some killer quotes and people. So very grateful. Thank you (you know who you are, yes you. Thank you. And you, and you and you.)


just rachelMy name is Rachel. I am a child of G-d, failing and hopeful. I am the beloved of ‘Ratchet’ who is mostly referred to as Sweetie. I am a motherless daughter with an amazing family full of siblings, nieces, a nephew, father and step-mother, wonderful in-laws, a kitty Tigger, and a gaggle of queers.
I have worked in Lutheran and Episcopal churches as well as their middle management offices aka the office of the Bishop. I used to work in restaurants, and find that the link between the two worlds is much smaller than most people would assume.
I blog here, and at The Swandive. I live in Minneapolis, MN, one of the greatest places on earth (no, I am not kidding).