There were rocks scattered on the tables at the opening meeting of the Adventist Forum Conference in Chattanooga last week. Attendees were invited to write what they felt was their religious identity on one side of the rock. On the other side of the rock they were to write something in which they believed deeply.
The meaning of the rocks became clear as the weekend progressed. Our identity and beliefs can serve as a strong foundation, but they can also become something that we throw. The next day, images of the words on rocks cycled on the big screen at the front of the room. (They are now up on YouTube.)
Attendees were encouraged to take a random identity rock home with them so that we could each carry another's identity and belief home with us from the conference.
Looking at ideas, people, and beliefs in a new way was the takeaway point for the 170 attendees. Brenton Reading, chair of the conference planning committee, said that it was from Brian McLaren that he had learned to hold his Adventism as a strong faith rooted in clear identity that interacts with others in loving and benevolent ways. Reading said, "I think that is taking the best from our conservative and liberal traditions. It's been described as a third way because it's a new approach to how we live our faith."
Southern Adventist University students brought energy to the crowd and have provided thoughtful summaries here on the website about the weekend.
As I’ve read some of the comments from people who were not there, I’ve thought again about the rocks. How quickly we can rush to throw our ideas into the mix.
How much we need to learn that loving, benevolent third way of engaging others that was encouraged at the conference.
Work has begun on next year’s conference which will be held in San Diego.
Photos by Rick Rice and Alita Byrd