Synod is the place where teenagers are taken seriously; if they want to explore their faith journey or if they want to unload a trunk full of problems that they can’t talk about in their home church they can talk about it here. We’ve had several people hear the call to ministry at Synod. It’s also a place to just have fun--just plain old running around laughing fun. We have it all—from a labyrinth walk to a shaving cream fight with 300 people.
My group was made of 13 people who had never met each other before. I can’t say too much about what happened inside the group because that’s one of the rules. “What happens in group, stays within the group” and I have never known anyone to break this vow of confidentiality. About the only thing I can say is that it is indeed possible to climb up to the first level of the Praying Hands sculpture at Oral Roberts University.
It's not easy, of course, but it is possible. This is a great accomplishment because those hands are pretty high. I mean….if anyone were to attempt to do that. Not that I know of anyone who tried. But…..if they were to try and succeeded—well, that would be a great accomplishment. And, of course, I couldn’t talk about it.
And the week of Synod isn’t the only fun to be had. We have orientation the weekend before we start and it’s almost as much fun as the conference itself. The staff is a tight-knit yet inclusive group of hearty and good-hearted eternal teenagers. We spend the weekend before Synod in orientation to make sure everyone on the team understands the theme scripture, the group games and the way the week will unfold. Then we spend some time talking about the fact that nothing ever unfolds the way you intend it to.
The grandfather of it all is Ron Holloman. His fingerprints are all over the event. When I say that the kids are placed in a group with 12 other people they’ve never met it sounds fairly simple. But someone has to remember whose group you were in last year so you don’t have any of those 12 people in your group this year. They also have to keep track of the year before that. And two years before. And three. Plus he needs to keep track of which pastor worked at which church two years ago and who is related to whom even when the names are different. The small groups are the engine that runs the week and it is this seemingly small detail that makes this conference different from any other in the country. And Ron is the guy who arranges the small groups. He does this so quietly and seamlessly that many kids don't even know who he is or what he's doing here.
Ron was my pastor for about 13 years. When he went to another church I was able to keep up with him through Synod and mutual friends. He went with us to Guatemala last year and I was at his granddaughter’s baptism a couple of months ago. By now, he’s more friend, brother and cheerleader than pastor. And I can’t imagine Synod Youth Workshop without him. But I’m going to have to start thinking about it.
At Friday’s staff meeting he very quietly told us that he will be stepping down from his position as Synod Liason. He reassured us that there is a plan in place but it hasn’t received final approval so he couldn’t announce his replacement. Whoever the poor schmuck is will have big shoes to fill.
Ron has good instincts about these things. When he left Garland he just said “it’s time.” And I’m pretty sure that was his reason for leaving the Mabank church after another 12 or 13 years. I have no idea how long he’s done Synod but I know it’s a lot longer than me and I’ve done it for over 20 years. There is a rumor that Jesus was in his first small group.
I hope to go back to SYW next year. It won’t be the same without Ron. But I suspect Jesus will be there as always. And that’s all that really matters. I’ve been through a couple of interim times when our church took time between pastors to remember that the real leader of a congregation is Jesus Christ. Pastors come and go and those times help us remember that church is always and only about Christ. Interim periods can be productive and healthy times for churches.
I had an Interim Pastor tell me once that we’re ALL interim; briefly caught here on earth between the heaven from whence we came and the heaven to which we’ll return, our time together here on earth is only an interim. But I am ever so glad we had this time together.
Let me leave you with some photos and videos that might explain why it’s so much fun: