Passion, Possibility, and Shoeless People #explo2011

Exploration 2011 Day of Blogging and Prayer

Exploration 2011 is a United Methodist program for young people who are interested in Ministry.

It’s also where you meet shoeless people.

I went to Exploration 1999 in California when I was a freshman in college. One of the presenters came up to the pulpit holding up his shoe and started waiving his hands around. I eventually realized he identified as deaf and an interpreter spoke his sign language into the microphone. I don’t remember the content of that sermon but remember thinking “hey, if a person who holds his shoes over his head like a crazy person can be a minister, I probably can too.”

Years later, I would meet that shoeless person again, sitting next to me at a church in Boston where I was in Seminary. His name is Rev. Kirk VanGilder and he actually did wear shoes. We became good friends and he served as an interim pastor for about 6 months at the church I did my field education at, so I got to learn a lot from him both about ministry and the deaf community. Kirk is now a chaplain and professor at Gallaudet University, a university for deaf students and I wish him God’s blessings on him and his educational/supportive ministry there.

In short, Exploration is a great program where you meet crazy Methodists and somewhere along the trajectory of your ministry, those crazy Methodists may end up being great friends and companions on the journey. I hope you get to experience it and attend Exploration 2011.

As a side note, I’ll be a panelist at Exploration 2011 on a discussion about social media and the church. So if you go, look me up! I’ll be the crazy person who holds his shoes over his head whilst blogging about it.

(This blog post is part of a synchblog called for by the Exploration 2011 committee)

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  1. says

    I’m glad the UMC has space for people who gesticulate with shoes :) Though I would prefer adjectives like “ridiculous” to “crazy.”

    Also, wow, it caps Young Adult at age 26? (I poked around the website briefly.) What kind of UMC program is it ;P

  2. Kirk says

    Hah! I don’t think you’d outed yourself as someone who was there! I did the shoeless thing totally impromptu after Mark Miller had done some song about taking your shoes off because this is holy ground.

    Opening with that little blurb for Bishop Woodie White was one of my finer moments wasn’t it?

    And it was in LA in 98. Exploration used to be on even numbered years. Not sure how it got onto odd numbered years now.

    Fun fact, a bunch of us involved in the team doing the planning that year from GBHEM had booked to stay the extra night for any debriefing meeting after the event closed. We wrapped up that meeting fast and instead of rushing to the airport to try for standby flights, we went to Disneyland! There were zero lines that late as many were watching the lighted parade so we zipped through Space Mountain, Pirates of the Carribean, and the Haunted Mansion counting the references to self-annihilation. Then we rode the Indiana Jones ride over and over until were dizzy. Enjoyed the fireworks together and then came back to the hotel.

    An event to remember for sure. Magical times.

    I’m teaching at Gallaudet but not the appointed Campus Minister now. That’s Lisa Jordan’s ministry.

    It’s neat you write about this as I just wrote a chapter for soon to be published book on ministers who are disabled and/or Deaf and name called Rev. Shelly Matthew of the Dakotas whose testimony was my own indelible milestone in my journey of being called.

    Glad to know I did make a lasting contribution to the process for another. Now…your turn!

  3. Kirk says

    Rev. Matthews was at the very first one in 1990 in St. Louis. I see it’s coming full circle again to that city!

    I’ve run into folks here or there who remember me from that event or some other Student Forum event. Seems like my cohort in that time who preceded the rebirth of the Student Movement made some memories for more than ourselves.

    I’ve talked with some others from that time now and then and it seems like we all feel that connection, Being 41 and now well beyond any stretch of the UMC ‘young adult’ category (although probably well below the denominational average) it’s odd and yet gratifying to feel like some sort of ‘grandfather’ to the excitement that brews at Exploration and Student Fourm.

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