A Breath of Fresh Air: First Day of Convention 2021 Inspires
By Carl Stagner
They came from Colorado, they came from the Carolinas. They came from this country, they came from beyond these borders. They arrived via automobile, plane, and train. And when they saw each other—sisters and brothers in Christ, following extended separation since the dawn of the pandemic—they smiled! They shook hands and embraced, concerned not with their weariness and jet lag, but only with the blessed reunion beginning to unfold. While the reunion was certainly sweet on Saturday, June 26, in Denver, Colorado, it was the Spirit’s work among those gathered in the expanse of the Brotherhood Mutual Ballroom—and across the country among those tuning in online—that really made the difference during the opening day of Convention 2021 and General Assembly. Convention Day 1 was, for so many, an inspirational breath of fresh air, following a year of literal and figurative moments when it was simply hard to take another breath.
It has been said that no great move of God in history has ever happened without having been preceded by the prayers of his people. It should be no surprise, then, that prayer warriors from across the country came together early in the morning on Saturday, when many might have preferred sleeping in, to boldly approach the throne of grace. A variety of pre-Convention electives, tailored to a variety of needs in the Church of God movement, propelled the morning forward to the Town Hall with Jim Lyon.
While Jim Lyon offered remarks during the Town Hall, it was Bishop Timothy Clarke—outgoing chair of the General Assembly—whose voice and message resonated during the opening session of the General Assembly. Receiving two standing ovations for his exemplary service to the Church of God over the course of his term, he encouraged listeners to embrace hope in the days, months, and years to come. In addition to a powerful devotion led by Erin Taylor and video reports presented by Christian Women Connection (CWC) and Children of Promise, Motion 1 (to take specific action concerning racial justice and equity; more details to come in future reporting) passed overwhelmingly with a nine-to-one margin.
Children of Promise also celebrated a new season of ministry and opportunity in view of their 30th birthday.
Back to the evening worship experience; such a time together with the saints cannot be overlooked. Especially when you consider the way God spoke to his people throughout the evening. How beautiful it was to pray over Rob, Kari, and Lilly Cotten as they were commissioned as missionaries for Global Strategy to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota! What a moment of joy to surprise the family when their church family back home came on the screen in a live video greeting! The Cottens will serve alongside the growing ministry of Tim and Kim Wardell. (Two more missionary units will be commissioned at Convention 2021; stay tuned each evening to find out more!) Then, Noel Castellanos took the stage and spoke from the heart.
Unmasking the “too respectable” image of Jesus often portrayed and perceived in Western culture, Noel Castellanos drew from several scriptures, including John 1:14, to connect the ministry of Jesus to the realities of the “neighborhood” to which he “moved” when he relinquished the splendors of heaven. Elevating the marginalized, the overlooked, and the oppressed, Noel underscored the truth of justicia as he noted the necessity to confront injustice if one is to truly do justice. “Over and over again, Jesus reminds us that it is impossible to bring love, hope, and redemption from a safe distance,” he asserted. Noel reminded listeners that “there is nobody too scandalous, too far out that Jesus can’t reach.” Therefore, we must move out of our comfort zones, too, as the Church of God.
“This is the air I breathe…You are the air I breathe…I’m desperate for You.” That’s how James Hume, Michael Romero, and the Highland Park (Casper, Wyoming) worship team opened Saturday evening in song. The Spirit is still breathing inspiration on the Church of God today, and it’s been incredible refreshing—and it’s only Day 1! Let’s just wait and see how the Spirit will move in the days ahead as we are “desperate,” hungry, and thirsty for justice, for righteousness, and for Jesus.
Sunday’s schedule indicates another great day in store for guests of Convention 2021 and General Assembly, in person and online. Anticipation is already on the rise for Geremy Dixon’s message to the Movement on Sunday morning, the lunch question-and-answer session with Reggie McNeal (pre-registration required), Rick McKinley’s message in the evening, and other receptions and activities throughout the day. See www.chogconvention.org for the daily schedule and short biographies of each speaker.
Feature (top) photo: Noel Castellanos speaks at Convention 2021 on Saturday evening.