David Hoover attended our Lay Gathering Chicago in the Spring of 2023 and offers this excellent reflection on his experience:
A priest friend invited me. I had never heard of the Gathering of Leaders. She said this was something that I would love and was eligible for since lay people were now also gathering. I trusted my friend so I said “yes”. I had no idea what I was saying yes to. I just showed up. What I discovered in northwest Chicago was more than I imagined.
In a short span of less than three days I found myself surrounded by a diverse group of smart, energized, lay Episcopalians. Most of them were employed by the Church in some lay professional capacity. A few, like myself, were involved in the Church but our calling was outside the church walls. The Gathering of Leaders staff had put together what they would call a “container” for information sharing, connection and encouragement. The content was useful. Hearing about best practices all over the country was inspiring. What was even better was the connection and encouragement. Every time I sat down at a table I ran into one or more of the forty people doing cool stuff in and around the Episcopal Church. These people had brains. These people had energy. These people were fighting for justice. These people believed in a Jesus that can love deeply and transform lives. These people believed that the Episcopal Church could make a difference and that they could make a difference.
One process that stood out for me was called “Adaptive Conversations”; a process of intense listening among three people. Each person has a chance to share some concern in their lives. The other two people listen deeply and offer insights and observations. This process really helped me to get excited about the next phase of my ministry in leading trainings and workshops. The leadership team of the Gathering of Leaders will tell you that “all they do” is create a vessel for the Spirit to do amazing things. It is too easy to minimize “ all they do”. The vessel they provided left me energized about and believing in the future of the church. I felt connected to a greater whole and empowered to fully live into my calling as a lay person. In the weeks since GOL I have thought a great deal more about my charism as a trainer and facilitator. Too often in the Episcopal Church any movement of the Spirit is labeled a vocational call to the priesthood. The definition of a charism is “ an extraordinary power given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church. “ What an incredibly
strengthening thing it is to be in a room of Jesus followers who are seeking to understand their own “incredible power”.
I would encourage other lay folks to step into the process offered by the Gathering of Leaders. Explore what the Spirit might be saying to you. Give energy and attention to your calling as a follower of Jesus, as a lay person. Maybe the next Gathering of Leaders is a place for you to discover more fully your extraordinary power.
David Hoover is a therapist,workshop leader and spiritual director in private practice in Richmond Virginia. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has a Masters of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. He has developed a workshop called Lost and Found that helps participants reflect on and heal from the traumas of the past three years. He also leads a retreat called GaySpirits which enables gay men to intigrate their gay and spiritual selves. He is a lay member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond Va. He and his husband , Bill and dog Joey have lived in Richmond for over three years.