The day begins with a choice of six different worship centres, Disciples, a capella, contemporary, African, Hispornic and Spanish. I choose Disciples which features the Gender Road Disciples Church Choir, gowned and swinging with a mix of classical and soul music.
Later, the plenary bible study is led by Rhonda Lowry, an a capella member breaking from a tradition that does not usually countenance women speakers. Indeed, reflecting on Mark 5, the story of the healing of the haemmoraghing woman, and the dynamic of trust, fear, liberation and enfolding into community in the narrative, Rhonda declares “Women in our tradition have been silent for too long.” Recognising the still divisive elements that challenging such traditions may entail, reference is made to the C & W song, “We come from a long line of love.”
Many workshops present themselves as choices, and I go to hear Ash Barker present the Jesse Bader Memorial Lecture. I have heard this courageous Australian missionary before, but I am curious to see how his incarnational methods of living amongst the poor in a Thai slum is received here. He compares Thai animism with “Christian animism” – any attempt to manipulate God to do what we want rather than being obedient to God’s leading. He develops his method of serving the poor around the priciples of authentic relief, education, protest, modeling after the style of Jesus and transformation. He fields many questions and has indeed provoked deep thought.
In the evening, special recognition is given to Avon and Deslee Moyle for over 30 years outstanding service in indigenous ministry. Sonny Graham receives the award on their behalf. A similar award is made to Ross Norling for the work he and his late wife, Helen, have done amongst aboriginal communities in the Pilbara.