Notes on a conference

It’s the Saturday morning session at the Fulton Street Prayer event. There is a band playing and there are several hundred people singing. And I’m walking around with a camera and a writing mind.

I live with several minds. I want to be part of what is happening. I agree with those who are in the middle of worship. But I also want to observe, to understand what is going on while it is going on. As a result, for those who are engrossed in the experience, I look like I’m not being very spiritual.

I don’t let that bother me anymore.


The whole room is singing “I’m desperate for You. I’m lost without You.” There are hands raised, there are voices singing, there are tears and sobs and heart pains written across faces. And as I look between the raised hands, I see a face looking above the heads of people, looking past us at someone, something, that we can’t see.

It is the statue of Jeremiah Lanphier, the man who, 150 years ago tomorrow, showed up in a room to pray.

He was resolute.

This bronze statue is not the same as the living faces. And yet, each capture something significant about being a Christ follower. And they give me a challenge. How can I be both resolute and desperate? How can I be both broken and strong? How can I be stable and flexible.

The picture is blurred. That’s on purpose.

We had been listening to a speaker. We were asked to take about five minutes, break into groups of four, summarize in a couple sentences what we had heard that applied to us individually or together.

These are those groups.

What did my group hear?

That we need to not have worship be entertainment but to let God talk with people through music and prayer and reading. That we need to quit beating up people who don’t know God. That we need to stop having so many little arguing groups of people who say that they do know God. That we need to expect rather than just being amused.

There were one hundred such groups. I don’t know what other people heard. But that isn’t my problem.

The weekend started with a dinner on Friday night. My first reaction was “this is too many Christians all together.” I realize that I’m being pretty ungracious, but too often we get together and and tell our little “in” jokes and amuse ourselves and walk out feeling good.

As the evening went on, I realized that there were many younger people and older people and people from many denominations and people from many ethnic origins. And all of us were together because of this prayer meeting 150 years ago. And all of us, together, at the heart of New York, were asking God to be at work. And all of us, together, were living the suggestion that maybe He will.

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