By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Toddlers playing on the floor at the back of the hall during worship services, and the way surrounding adults watch with indulgent smiles.
Old friends meeting unexpectedly, with hugs and cries of “I didn’t know you were coming to Conference this year!”
New friends being made during the interminable elevator rides in high rise downtown hotels.
Seeing a fancy hotel lobby fill up with Brethren dressed in NYC and BVS t-shirts, some with small children in tow, some with grey hair, most with coolers full of inexpensive groceries.
When ecumenical guests become confused about who is in charge, because there are no titles on the name tags and leaders are known by first name.
Seeing donated goods pile up in front of the stage as Brethren bring offerings for the Witness to the Host City.
Seeing a delegate go to the microphone with earnest concern that the body do the work of the church diligently and well.
Hearing the ritual greeting spoken between head table and those at the microphones--the delegate addressing the leader as “brother moderator” or “sister moderator,” and the moderator’s gravely spoken response of “sister” or “brother”--recognizing each other as equals in God’s family.
Waiting for someone to speak a confession or voice a challenge to the church--something that inevitably happens when enough Brethren get together--uncomfortable words provoking Brethren to begin to speak truthfully with each other.
Witnessing how uncomfortable, truthful conversations across divides of geography and ethnicity and biblical interpretation and knowledge and theology, may lead to revelation.
Being surrounded by thousands of people who are praying together, all at the same time.
The sense of the Spirit that brings tears when a new moderator is consecrated with prayer and laying on of hands.
Feeling bereft and alone after Conference ends and we all go back home, having been reminded of my true home at the table of love in the community of Christ.
-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is an ordained minister and director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.