By Mark A. Taylor
A few weeks ago, I commented in this column about the North American Christian Convention’s experiment this year with regional conferences. We invited readers to add their opinions, and many have. (Find both my editorial and the responses by going to the Letters to the Editor section on our Web site.)
As we prepared this issue we talked with NACC executive director Allan Dunbar and asked him to add his observations to the discussion.
More than once in our interview Dunbar used the word intimate to describe the regionals. And he was speaking about something more than the smaller attendance at this year’s events.
“The intimacy was a unique feature,” he says. “We prayed together, sang together, ate together. The meals were a real highlight. We could hardly get people away from the tables and back to the sessions!”
But the conferences were about far more than food and fellowship. “The theme and program allowed us in that intimate setting to have a spiritual renewal time that isn’t always possible in a larger mob of people,” Dunbar said. “There was a chance for personal commitment. Many described an experience they’ve not had in other conventions.”
And as good as the three regional conferences were, Dunbar thinks the minister and spouse retreat was even better.
“Everyone who attended had a ‘glory-hallelujah’ mountaintop experience,” he said. Many told him, “We must do this again.”
He hopes we will repeat the retreat, but like just about everyone, he views the regional conferences as an experiment that taught us not to repeat it anytime soon. “I doubt in my lifetime we’ll ever see regional conferences again,” he said.
Nevertheless, he feels good about what conference attendees experienced this summer, and believes the most credible critique of the conferences will come from those who attended them—not those who decided to stay home. And he praises the NACC staff’s contribution this year, speaking of their “wonderful willingness to do the work in a new, difficult way. They did what had to be done—always positive, never complaining.”
Meanwhile, plans for next year’s convention are in full swing, and Dunbar’s zeal for the 2006 Louisville event is unbounded. “Next summer’s convention has a historic and futuristic tone to it that we haven’t seen in our fellowship for years,” he said. “To be able to mark a significant attempt at reconciliation after 100 years of separation [with the a cappella churches of Christ] is a moment that thousands in our fellowship have prayed for. To miss this will be to miss something that will be in every history book for years to come.”
His enthusiasm is built on the interest and energy of people he meets everywhere. “Whenever I speak, no matter the subject, everyone wants details about how to register and attend this event,” he said.
Those details are available now. Just visit www.nacctheconnectingplace.org. All of us can agree that next year’s single gathering in Louisville will be something special. And many of us should plan to attend.