Today the sun rose in the humid skies of Kentucky on the third and final day of this year’s Society of Vineyard Scholars Conference. I’ve reflected on the packed first day and brilliant second day, do read these to make some sense of what we’ve been up to. The Thursday is a little shorter – finishing in time for lunch – but it was still packed and full of some great conversations and provocative ideas. For some of us, Thursday started just after Tuesday’s evening session, continuing till about 3am shooting the breeze and digging deep into some of the conversations generated. But I digress.
The final ‘big talk’ came from Howard Snyder, who spoke on ‘Kingdom, Covenant, and Context: Aligning very much with normative Kingdom Theology (The particular theological motif of the Vineyard, and a key part of many other movements) he drew links between this and covenant theology. I was quite late into his talk – but two things struck me (amazingly he’d printed off a script that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading) as well as a handout which would have been helpful for those listening to us. Firstly, that he echoed what I’ve increasingly been discovering in the language of theology of place, that (in his case ‘covenant’) the relationship between God, people and land/place is of great importance for theology. Secondly, one of his critiques had been that Vineyard worship did not actively engage with creation and new creation – but he was humble enough to say ‘no’ to that after two great songs in the worship before his talk. He prayed for us, and I roughly quote:
“We thank you that you are the Lord of history and Word of our lives. That by your Spirit you have touched everyone in this room, and are present and will be in the future. I pray for the Spirit to be at work in each of us, the communities and families represented here. May we be fully faithful, and fully faithful to your word. May your Spirit be poured out in exciting ways to enable us to be disciples today. Amen“
After this great session I did something I don’t normally like to do and sat in on one paper in one panel and then went to the second of another. The first was Hana Lehman – The Broken Liturgy of Birth in America: Vitality, Embodiment and Being a Human Being in a Technological Society. This was, perhaps trailered beautifully by her 7 minute session on Day One, superb. I absolutely loved nearly all of it, and think it contained a great blend of prophetic critique, reflection, and theological construction. Secondly, I heard my friend Luke Geraty give his paper ‘Quadrilateralling in the Vineyard’. The irony of his title is that it was one of very few made up words on the program, but that he is a pastor who normally speaks reasonably intelligibly. But I digress. It was a great paper – I’d encourage you to read it if you are in pastoral ministry or academia – and led on to a lively discussion.
The conference closed in a powerful setting of worship and Communion (yay!). I can honestly say, at this stage, that out of the four SVS conferences I’ve been to, this was the best. The combination of great theology, great friends, great ministry, great worship, great teaching, great food, great hospitality and a shared commitment to King Jesus and his Kingdom, was profound. I’ll reflect further later, but for now, I hope I can get there next year!