My first experience at the Gathering of Leaders conference has been gratifying. I’ll admit, when I was first invited to attend the conference, I had many questions and of course one of them was, “What is The Gathering of Leaders?” At first, I thought the Gathering of Leaders was a secret group that invited certain clergy to discuss how we would take over the Episcopal Church. I am happy to say that it was nothing that I expected it would be.
The topic: “Racial Reconciliation and Discipleship in the Missionary Church,” caught my attention to attending the Texas Gathering. This topic peaked some interest for me because of my passion for addressing racial reconciliation in the church and my work with the Son’s of Confederate Veterans.
The peer leadership format allowed me to share my personal struggles around the conversations on racial reconciliation, as well as having the opportunity to listen to others. While engaging in those conversations, I learned that my colleagues had similar struggles or successful ministries with this topic in the Episcopal Church or other communities.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to preach as a first time attendee. I was also impressed on how the presenters covered a variety of ideas around the GOL topic. Jemonde Taylor’s presentation on “Hidden in Plain Sight,” was fascinating. The presentation opened my eyes to see darkness as it was intended to be: good, beautiful, and a place where we can live with God. Dr. Carter’s work on Dietrich Bonhoeffer was amazing as well. The way that Dr. Carter addressed Fascism and the doctrine of racial reconciliation inspired me to look deeper into Bonhoffer’s work. I purchased Dr. Carter’s book, “Race: A Theological Account.”
Everything I took away from the conference is incredibly valuable, however, I believe the friendships will stick with me the most. I look forward to attending future GOL conferences and participating in more peer leadership formats throughout my ministry.
The Rev. Randy Callender
Rector, Saint Philip’s Church