An invite to the 2016 Conference for anyone still undecided (or afraid of crowds)

12189169_10153188305686500_8501896706664470370_nEditor’s Note – Thanks to Vanessa for putting together this piece to help invite those who haven’t registered yet for the conference.  Registration has been picking up these past couple weeks.  

I’m not what you call a people-person. Sure, I can do small talk, and sometimes even with a smile, but underneath it all I’m just your average introvert and a bit of a curmudgeon. Crowds — especially crowds of strangers — make me uneasy. Not to the point of being physically ill, thankfully, but I generally prefer to avoid that inevitable sensation of being out of place, like I’m the one thing that’s not like the others, the one who doesn’t belong. (Cue Sesame Street music — you’re welcome.)

All this said you’d probably think packing up and heading across the country — with a toddler in tow, no less — for the Steadfast Lutherans conference would rank low on my list of fun activities. After all, I’m just a new Lutheran, a tongue-tied layperson who has less a knack for speaking eloquently about theology and more for sticking my foot in my mouth while making awkward small talk with clergy and laity I’ve just newly met. I laugh nervously and fidget uncomfortably. I entirely expect to spend a good chunk of time huddled in a corner pretending to do so for the sake of the toddler who, if you look closely, will actually be trying to escape my lap so she can shake hands with and smile at everyone around her.

Yet it was with excitement and joy — not dread and anxiety — that I quickly purchased our tickets and made arrangements for my husband and I to attend the conference this year.

Simply put the sheer blessing of gathering with this group of brothers and sisters in Christ, tied together by both our Lord and His doctrine, is so great and worthwhile that it trumps any of my own insecurities or idiosyncrasies.

This is a wonderful gift of both fellowship and teaching, where we come together — clergy and laity, adults and children, alike — to learn and discuss, proclaim and confess, eat and drink, listen and laugh. It is easy to forget the discomfort of crowds when you arrive in a place where everyone already is family, and pastors have a wonderfully warm way of welcoming even us shy, curmudgeonly, foot-in-mouth-plagued folks who rarely feel like we belong.

I may still retreat to that corner — I’m an introvert, after all, and need those moments alone to recharge — but I’m looking forward to once again being among my extended church family to hear God’s Word, to be taught by some wonderful men, and to share a great deal of good laughs, food, and drinks with friends, old and new.

I hope to see you at the Steadfast Lutherans conference this year — just bear with me if I say something awkward when we meet!

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