Reflections on the Montreat College Conference by Ethel Hornbeck

You might think that driving a thousand miles in the freezing cold and hanging out for most of a week with a thousand plus college students right after the crazy of Christmas would be exhausting—and you’d be right.  But also exciting and fun and filled with hope, and I so bring that all back here to you. 
 
Last year, the Montreat College Conference (in the Mts of NC) began with the Stated Clerk of our denomination, the marvelous J. Herbert Nelson, looking out at all those young faces, from Presbyterian campus programs across the country and declaring: “the church is not dying, it is reforming, because we are here.” I thought of that hopeful claim, as I listened to this year’s prophetic speakers and preachers, beginning Rick Ufford Chase (author of our next Sun. Sem. book) who declared to this year’s gathered assembly—“the single most important thing we can do is create faithful communities with the capacity to resist empire.”
 
This year, accompanied three students from SPC’s college program, Connections, who gave up precious break time to make that freezing trek, to hang out, to worship, to listen and learn, to connect and to create community with folks from WVU and Marshall, with whom we shared lodging and meals.
 
One real highlight for our Connections group this year, was a workshop led by a fabulous and gifted young trans pastor, named simply Slats, author of this beatiful book of poetry, “Queering Lent.” Slats offered to a group of two dozen or so mostly LGBTQ students, a marvelous creative romp through scripture with fresh eyes, ears, hearts and pronouns. Slats insisted, no matter what you might be hearing in your church “the arc of scripture bends toward greater and greater inclusion.” And they concluded: “we are not what society says we have to be and that is wonderful.” It is, in fact, a gift to church. 
 
I know you’d probably rather hear from a student what this all meant, and just to remind you--you did, two weeks ago, when Bethany Pryzbocki was here to update us on her life- changing Young Adult Volunteer year in Albuquerque, an experience that all started at last year’s college conference.  Its all about planting seeds, this whole campus ministry business; planting and trusting that somehow it all matters.  I am so grateful all over again, to be part of a denomination that takes this all so seriously and supports it so consistently, and to this church that has been so generous and supportive of our efforts here at Shepherd University over the last 10 years. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and I promise to keep you posted on those seeds.