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What’s So Great about PYM?

PYM16

Rev. Yolanda sings up a storm at PYM16. (c) Courtney Perry

We’ve just come off of the best Progressive Youth Ministry conference yet. The post mortems are being posted hither and yon. I have very deep feelings about what happened last week, feelings that I surely cannot convey in a blog post.

Let me start with my highlight: the music. Probably, you couldn’t have a stranger line-up than a drag queen and a Grammy-winning songwriter, but that’s what we had.

Rev. Yolanda changed my life. And I’m not being overly dramatic here. Her presence and love and joy truly broke something open in me that had long been crusted over. I’ve been trying to figure out what that is, and I don’t know that I can quite articulate it. But it’s something about my own suburban dad-bod veneer, my own anxieties and protections. Those came in direct contact with someone who lives so boldly and exuberantly. I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it.

And Phil Madeira, who did our music during the second half of the conference, writes blues that are so true-to-life that I wanted him to play them over and over. I sense that he’s someone who has every reason not to believe anymore, yet he still does. That puts us in the same camp, which is probably why his songs so resonate with me.

The talks were fantastic as well. Evelyn Parker challenged us to get some things right about race before we march in Ferguson; Paul Wallace gave an absolutely stunning talk that contrasted the anthropocentric text of the Bible with the very non-anthropocentric text of the cosmos (with the Book of Job as the stitch that holds them together); Catherine Keller was brilliant, as usual, talking about the fabulousness (aka, fable-ness) of science and scripture; and Rob Bell was the best I’ve ever seen him. I know, that’s something to say that. Watch this space for the video of Rob’s talk.

Of course, there were seminars, BBQ, Homebrewed Christianity Live, a song set by Ronnie Fauss, and much more. As my partner in this venture, John Vest, said, “We’ve really hit our stride with PYM16.” And it’s true.

Thanks to everyone who came, and to those who cheered us on from afar. Hope you can all join us next year, March 8-10, 2017, at the Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina.



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  • gapaul

    Love this review.
    That said, I think its just me, –I know for some the word “progressive” is water on parched earth, so loud are the voices around them that are “not progressive.” But for me “progressive” youth ministry sounds so settled, so smug, so “not like those fools still clinging to their crosses and their Jesus.” I wish we didn’t have to use that word to say, “we welcome gay people, we think faith has got to be good news for the poor and the planet, and we’re not sending anybody to hell.” From this description, I wish everyone had been there, including me.

  • I wish you had been there, too. If there were another word we could use to demarcate who we are, then we would. But there’s not. So we’ve settled on Progressive, and it’s been super useful for people.

    I will tell you that the vibe at the conference is not smugness. Not by a long shot. It is, just as you guessed, water-on-parched-earth. People are thrilled to be around others who share their perspective. And, as well as welcoming gay people, there’s quite a bit of talk about Jesus and the cross!