(This post was originally written for the Faith & Culture Writers Conference blog Dec. 9, 2013:
When the leadership team for the 2013 Faith & Culture Writers Conference had our celebration dinner last June, we reminisced over wine and salmon and salad, discussing the big event. I am so grateful for the service these wonderful ladies gave: Bethany, our executive administrative assistant, Kari Patterson, our communications director, Ashley our agent and mentor coordinator, and Ana, our marketing specialist.
They sacrificed countless hours to put on what turned out to be a fabulous conference last April at Multnomah University. When you serve with people on a team to put on such a large event, you bond over late night brain storming sessions, sipping tea and wine and agonizing over speakers and schedules and wanting every detail to be perfect and lots and lots of prayer. I got teary eyed at the end of the conference saying our goodbyes. We are all dear friends now, and I will always be thankful these four ladies that said yes.
And, during that final meeting last June at the downtown waterfront restaurant, the subject of the next conference eventually came up. Kari — who came to our 2011 inaugural conference at Western Seminary who had introduced herself to me after my talk, and then returned in 2013 to serve on the planning team — said she needed a year off to breathe and that she actually thought we should keep our conference an every other year event, and wait until 2015 again. And Ashley said she needed a year off as well. And, my right hand, Bethany, though she didn’t tell me that night, later shared with me that family and health issues required her immediate attention this next year.
A month or so later, Bethany called me up to meet. She brought flowers. I should be giving HER flowers! She had tears in her eyes and said, “Cornelia, God has given you a vision and you need to keep this vision alive no matter who comes alongside you. God will provide.” She said to trust and believe and move forward and to give it to God. She said people would come forward, new people, and I need to have faith. We both cried and prayed and I said I would listen to her.
I started calling and emailed people about the conference, and I asked for people to be on the advisory board and I met with others who had experience with events envisioning businesses and non-profits, like Ken Wytsma and Don Jacobson and my good friend Paul Louis Metzger, whose been a supporter of our conference from Day 1.
In discussing this event with these friends, the consensus seemed clear: have the event yearly.
But, then there is reality. I cannot plan this conference alone. I know it is God’s vision, yes, but I told God, I cannot do this alone.
I began to pray, that if it is meant to be, people would come forward.
I love how God works. I got a phone call from Christal, a speaker last year. And a text message from Ana. Separately mind you. Both messages were clear- “Cornelia, what date in 2014 is the next Faith & Culture Writers Conference? I think you need to have it next year, and not wait a year.”
Then, I got an email from Melanie, a professor of English at George Fox, with whom I’ve been connected off after teaching a course at Fox a while back. We have a mutual friend in Pam, who spoke at our 2013 conference. Melanie wanted to meet to talk writing and life. When we met, the subject of the conference came up. And, after I noted my vision is to move the Faith & Culture Writers Conference to different campus each year, and I’d love to be at Fox sometime, she said, “Well, George Fox is looking to host more events on campus.”
I’d see certain people at my monthly Writers Connection and think, hmm, they would be great on the leadership team. And, I was reminded of names I had written down after the last event, who had said that if there is a need for help, to please contact them.
So, I met for coffee with people and we prayed and dreamed and looked at calendars and talked and here we are. It’s a go.
And, this planning team is fabulous.
Starting with the only returning member, Ana, whose digital and social media expertise is amazing. Then there’s Velynn, our executive administrative assistant, who is such a passionate, driven, dynamic person, whom Ashley brought to one of our monthly Writers Connection meetings.
And, Taylor, our new communications director, is such a sweet, kind, deep soul who happens to work at The Oregonian, where I freelance. Grateful to Michelle Watson for introducting Taylor to FCWC and me last spring.
Then there’s Brooke, our new agents and mentor coordinator who attended the last conference, wrote a note to me after the last conference offering to help. Wow, she has energy and many talents she is bringing to the table. Nicole introduced Brooke to our event last spring- I love connections. Nicole has been a faithful friend and past speaker at FCWC.
Melanie is our GFU laision. It is so good to get to know her better. She’s an excellent writer and thinker and we both have boys the same age!
And, Lynn is our new prayer coordinator and scribe, whom I met at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference last summer where I served as a mentor, and Lynn’s been a faithful Writers Connection attendee ever since. And, finally there’s Matthew, our writing contest coordinator who attended our 2013 FCWC and has been reaching out the past couple of months on Facebook. When we met a couple of weeks ago at my Writers Connection at Rolling Hills, we touched on the next conference. The subject of writing contests came up, which is wild because Velynn had suggested that idea during our first brainstorming meeting in the Pearl District. Yet, excitement is one thing, feet to pavement is another. I know how much time and work it takes, and again I say, I cannot do it alone. But, I love affirming others in their enthusiasm, so with Matthew’s excitement about the writing contest I suggested he help organize it. I figured he’d say no or ignore the question. He did neither, but instead tossed so many great ideas my way. I chuckled that he could organize the event. And, again, I did not really think he’d be serious about it as I made the suggestion in a light-hearted manner. But, he surprised me once again.
After a few days and many emails later, I invited Matthew to our first large get-it-done planning meeting last week. Matthew arrived before me with his trademark positive spirit and enthusiasm. Okay, I tell God, I get this. I don’t have to go it alone.
And, there are so many others who have affirmed the conference, helping with direction and connections and ideas. Aaron Smith, aka the cultural savage, for one. He showed up at our first larger FCWC brainstorming meeting in November. We happened to be meeting for coffee that day anyway, so I just said, hey come at the tail end of the meeting. Aaron is on our advisory board and we are grateful for his insight and belief in our event.
So, for that first meeting with all these official positions in place, we opened the meeting with prayer! That is number one for me. We need God’s guidance and direction. As my theme in this piece. We cannot do it alone. There was so much positive energy and passion and drive, and the ideas were flowing and moving and being shaped.
And, there was a lot to do after leaving that meeting. Yet, there are enough people to make it happen.
I love our theme verse, which we chose during our first brainstorming session in the Pearl: “And God has filled us with the Spirit, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship for work in every skilled craft.” Exodus 35: 31-33. And our five theme words this year: diverse, fresh, craftsmanship, voice, and wisdom.
I am incredibly grateful to the 2014 FCWC leadership planning team, and to George Fox for being our sponsoring host.
And I’m ultimately grateful to our creative God, who fills us with His Spirit to guide us with craftsmanship and creativity and voice and wisdom. The God who continually reminds me, through His Spirit and through others, this is His event. He is with us. Just as in life, He is with us. We don’t have to walk through life alone. I am desperate for Him to show up. That’s a good place to be.
And, for this specific event — and in life in general — I am desperate for Him, and He is making Himself known, providing so many others to walk alongside, so many wonderful people to share the load, so many others who are excited to see this conference return in 2014. Indeed, we don’t have to go it alone.