Nazarene General Assembly 2009 wrap up

I said in my previous entry that I’d probably have more to say about Nazarene General Assembly in Orlando.  Know what?  I don’t.  I find that, in itself, rather interesting.  In the weeks leading up to the event I found myself thinking more and more about what might happen.  Someone posted all the resolutions to their blog and I read every one of them and decided whether I was for or against them.  While I was actually in Orlando I enjoyed all the fellowship and the good worship services.  I also chatted with folks about what might happen once the delegates actually went to work.  I found the election of the three new GS’s quite interesting and when I got home I told my friends about it.

Then real life reappeared.  We immediately had a wedding to attend and then Vacation Bible School began.  Now, we’re looking forward to vacation time.  The responsibilities and joys of everyday life have taken over and GA seems less important than before.

Maybe, after 2013 and the Internationalization movement is acted upon I’ll feel different about it all, but for now, I’m reminded that the “big” deal is what happens out here in ordinary life.  The Church that matters is the one I’m part of.  Ultimately, the decisions our family will make about our own concerns, rather than the results of voting at General Assembly, are the ones that will matter the most to me.

I love Nazarene General Assembly.  In fact, I haven’t missed one in over 30 years.  But know what?  It isn’t all that big a deal when “real life” is factored in.

Reflections on Nazarene General Assembly

Now that our journey is over and 2009 Nazarene General Assembly is history I’m in a reflective mood about it all.  I went to GA to work as an exhibitor at the NazNet booth.  To me, that’s the very best way to go to a Nazarene General Assembly.  Wearing the “exhibitor” tag has a few minor perks, and having a booth gives one a  place to call “home” at the Assembly.  When you stay in one place you end up seeing about everybody sooner or later.  I enjoyed connecting with the NazNet regulars on a more personal level and I enjoyed seeing friends from years gone by.  Sad to say, I didn’t see as many of those dear friends as I’ve seen in the past.  I imagine it was because the location change brought in a different group than good old Indy!

I haven’t said much about the business of the Assembly.  Frankly, a person could spend a lot of time at General Assembly and know less of what was really going on then someone sitting home watching it all on their computer.  Now, though, I’ve had some time to digest at least the highlights.

I think the election of Eugenio Duarte of Africa as a Nazarene General Superintendent is huge.  For years we’ve claimed to be an international denomination that just happened to have as it’s highest officers six North American white guys.  Four years ago we allowed a woman into the club (although she has now retired) and this year we looked to Africa for leadership.  It’s a big deal and a giant step toward true internalization.  Some immediately started complaining that we didn’t elect others from other places around the world.  I have the idea that Duarte may be the first, but he won’t be the last.  Beyond that, I think David Graves and Stan Toler will be terrific GS’s who will be loved by Nazarenes worldwide.

The other major result isn’t really a result at all.  Four years ago an International Church Commission was formed.  They brought to the Assembly recommendations for sweeping changes in the structure of the denomination.  The Assembly voted to accept their recommendations and send them on to a new Commission to work on implementation of those recommendations.  So, in four more years we’ll have the big one — with new approaches that will change the church forever.  I know it’s rather frustrating to see a ball start rolling in 2005, then in 2009 like what we see, and then wait till 2013 to see if the denomination will be willing to take the plunge.  Still, when you have a 100 year old denomination you can’t go around just messing with stuff to see what happens.  Hopefully, the 12 year process will be worth the wait.

Stay tuned, I’ll likely have more observations in the days to come.

Sunday afternoon at Nazarene General Assembly

Sunday afternoon’s service appears to have less than half the Sunday morning crowd. That’s still a lot of people and it matches the evening services. Okay, I have to do it…I must complain about the sound. First of all, it’s just plain too loud. During the second song we got up and moved way back, seeking a sound level that doesn’t hurt. It’s still so loud as to be distracting, but it’s somewhat bearable back here in the cheap seats. Second, every night there have been situations in which someone started singing a solo without their microphone turned on. Now, in some little church, that kind of stuff happens. Here, I assume someone is getting paid to run the sound. And, okay, in a complicated production like this it might still happen once in awhile, but surely there’s someone on the staff who knows enough about running sound in big events to anticipate what is coming next and punch off the mute button. Once in one service, well, it’s too bad, but every service? We did sing a couple of songs we know. Maybe the official Nazarene stance is that on weeknights it’s okay for the planners to leave the congregation out of the singing, but on Sundays there has to be some songs that everyone can sing. We’re about to see the march of the flags and hear a sermon by Dr. Gunter. This is the final public service of this General Assembly.

Sunday morning at Nazarene General Assembly

Sunday morning Nazarene General Assembly: it’s about as Nazarene as you can get. A case could be made that a person is never fully “Nazarene” until they’ve attended at least one of these signature services. The 2009 version was no disappointment. The music was excellent and the sermon by Dr. Cunningham was a blessing. The big communion service was blessed. Tradition finally won as the congregation sang (yes, we sung and didn’t just listen to) “Holiness unto the Lord.” The music team resisted the temptation to “contemporize” it up by mixing in a praise chorus or by updating the rhythm. It was nice to hear the whole congregation join together in a well known song of the church. I’m okay with the more modern songs, but I really like it when we all sing unto the Lord rather than just standing and clapping and listening to the talented folks with the microphones do our singing for us. Dr. Cunningham brought us another patented GS story telling sermon. It was fun to listen to and was quite inspirational. In preparation for communion we recited the Apostle’s Creed. If you like old fashioned worship, you would love seeing the church embracing this nearly 2000 year old Christian ritual! The hall was, I guess, around 80% full. That’s a lot of people, over 22,000 were in attendance. That means it wasn’t close to being the biggest Nazarene crowd ever…but that’s a lot of Nazarenes in one place at one time. Additionally, we’re told that there were over 6000 streaming internet connects. I can only imagine that that number will continue to grow. In 10 or 15 years we may have as many participants off site as we have on site.

Saturday night at General Assembly

We arrived at the service about 10 minutes late so we missed the early part of the worship service.  What I heard was good, especially a multimedia song about how the Lord takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes something brand new from them.

As we were entering the service my wife looked at me and asked if she looks as tired as I do.  She doesn’t and all I can say is that I look like I feel!  I’ve spent from morning to night here the past four days.  While I’m not especially doing anything difficult, the constant noise and even enjoyable fellowship is somewhat tiring.  Tired or not, I’m having a wonderful time.

I know there’s been some discussion about the evening services that isn’t especially positive.  I’m not Pollyanna, but I think the services have been well structured, of high quality, and bathed in prayer.  While I’m not personally moved by them, I accept the fact that the fault is mine.  My A.D.D. kicks in and I find myself looking around instead of worshiping.  I even, ah-hem, fire up the laptop and do a blog entry rather than abandon myself to worship.

The high point of GA for about everyone is the Sunday morning service and the high point of that service for me is being one of the clergy who serves communion.  I’m looking forward to doing so in the morning.  I may even forsake blogging the service.  However, don’t be shocked if my compulsion to write takes over even there on such hallowed ground.  Had I been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration rather than volunteering to build shelters, I would have probably offered to document the event by blogging about it.

Friday night at Nazarene General Assembly

The crowd is considerably larger than it has been the previous two nights.  I’d say that there are at least 30% more people here.  Once again the music was top notch.  I don’t know any of the songs (well, I knew the verse of Amazing Grace) so I’m a spectator to the music rather than a participant.  I couldn’t sing anyway because my voice is quite tired from spending time at the NazNet booth most of the day.

The big cross from last night is off to the right with a red spotlight on it.  On the right of the stage there’s a huge children’s choir, all wearing white.  It was neat seeing them participate in the service.

All the children reminds me of the many families I’ve seen here.  They are everywhere.  Also, I love seeing all the young adults who are in attendance.  Honestly, the Church looks young and energetic.

I’ve decided I’m not cut out to attend a mega church.  I’m just too distracted by the big show (not that anyone is putting on a show – from what I can tell everyone is sincere and capable) to concentrate and worship.  There are too many things to look at: babies, grandpas and grandmas, technology, and internationals wearing their unique styles.

Of course, it may just be that after 36 years of being the one up front that I’ve forgotten how to be ministered to.  Note: I’m not asking to get up front of this crowd.  I’m impressed by people who can minister in these conditions.

Thursday night at Nazarene General Assembly 2009

I’m in the Thursday evening service of Nazarene General Assembly.  Once again I’m impressed by the facility, especially the video technology.  There are, not one or two, but nine huge screens providing close ups of what is happening on the stage.  In addition there’s another screen of the same size behind the pulpit area.  It has different pictures, etc. to match the moment in the service.  Then, there’s a “triple wide” screen to the right of it.  It also has different stills on it.

Then, tonight, there’s a 26 foot tall wooden cross in front of the pulpit.  It is a wide cross — suggesting strength.  Since the center aisle is around 15 feet wide, the cross isn’t in anyone’s way (except the camera’s — I wonder if they thought that through).  A few years ago the NYI had a huge video cross that served as the center piece of NYC.  Now, the General Assembly picks up the theme, but this time with wood and not high tech.  It makes a powerful statement.

The friendliness of the Nazarenes impacts people.  I was here on Tuesday when things first opened.  The workers were friendly but detached.  Professional.  Now, it’s Thursday and when you pass one of them they look at you because they expect you to be like everyone else they’ve met — they expect you to smile or even say something to them.  I’ve experienced it with everyone from the lady at the parking toll booth to the security people at the doors. Last night a security guy commented to me that they were told to prepare for 40,000 people on Sunday morning (I really doubt it will be that many) but he added, “I’ve never heard of this church, but it must be a big one.”

So the Nazarenes are in Orlando.  The “One heart…” program has gotten the attention of the local media too.  Supposedly there’s a nice feature of it and on the General Assembly on a local TV station tonight.

Thursday afternoon at the General Assembly

What a denomination!  I’m sitting in the food court enjoying a good lunch and watching the activity on the stage.

When I came in a young lady with a beautiful soprano voice was singing “old standards” like “His Eye is in the Sparrow,” “It is Well With My Soul” and a concluding powerful rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”  Her high notes were pure and powerful.

Now, a group from the Korean University is on stage.  Korean traditional clothes, instruments, and high energy followed by a dramatic “praise dance” to “The Via Del La Rosa.”

Earlier, I saw a group from Sun Valley Indian School and, while they were on stage, another group was warming up for a karate demonstration.

What a varied group — all united in faith and purpose.

Wednesday evening: Nazarene General Assembly, 2009

I’m not going to try to blog Nazarene General Assembly from Orlando, FL.  However, I’m sitting in the Wednesday night service with the laptop open and can’t resist doing a post about the first service.

The Orange County Exhibition Center is amazing.  The hall the service is in seats tens of thousands.  Unlike the football stadium seating in Indy, we are in an exhibition hall.  No balcony or steps.  Just big.

It’s almost a problem for me.  They’re singing on the distant stage and a full orchestra is playing their hearts out and I’m sitting here gawking around at the huge hall, the many big screen monitors, and the crowd of Nazarenes.  Even “Days of Elijah” didn’t stir me as it would in my home church.

There’s a big emphasis on how many countries are represented and when I came by the tables where they hand out translation devices and saw the large number of people there I was impressed by the diversity.

One pastor from PNG chatted with me for awhile today.  He’s dreamed of visiting the US for over 20 years and now he is here.  Another couple from Africa happened to come up to order supper when I did.  They were worried that the food would be too spicy.  I assured them that the rice and chicken wasn’t very spicy.  They told me afterward that, once they got used to it, it tasted good.

I have a little camera that allows for panoramas.  It’s nothing fancy, but here’s a portion of the scene in this service.