Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Chicago: last day

I didn't get to post our last day in chicago before I left - mainly because I was tired after the whole week and reckoned I could do it once I got back!

On Friday night we went to the local cinema and saw the reader which was a great way to just relax for the evening after the conference and everything else.

On saturday we got the train to downtown Chicago again for the last day - for one main reason! We went to Fado's Irish pub and paid $20 just to walk in the door to watch the Ireland match!

Seemed a bit of a rip off but I think it was definitely worth it!

We then split up and wandered around Chicago separately and I went to see the Giant Bean - I'm sure its got another name but it was pretty cool and I got to wander round the park. It was lovely to relax and have some space to just wander around and not do much!

We met up again at tea time to start going back to the hotel and just chill for the evening. The evening was then just relaxed before bed and we needed to start thinking about packing and coming home!

Friday, 20 March 2009

inside Willowcreek!

Just wanted you to see a picture of the inside of Willowcreek to see the size it is. I had some difficulty focussing the first day on what was going on from the stage because I was so blown away by the size!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Chicago: day 4

Today was a good day - again! It was our breakout day where we were going to the seminars that we had pre-chosen before coming to Chicago - and I suppose some of the stuff that I was most looking forward to as it was stuff I was interested in.

Session 1 was on helping kids through family transition - like separation, divorce, grief, etc - and was led by Beth who runs the ministries to kids in Willow who are going through those things. She was inspirational and I would have loved to spend the next few hours just chatting to her! I had to settle for her email address which I plan to use.

Session 2 was with Ivy Beckwith who has written the book that we use on the Children's Ministry course - and which is quite tough to read. She was really interesting though but I would have liked her to go deeper. I suppose she was doing a start off seminar looking at Children's Ministry in a Postmodern world but because we have read the book we wanted her to go deeper and she didn't do that. We did have a chat with her after though and she said she would love to come to Ireland and do Building Blocks sometime so that was a result.

Session 3 was on te Spiritual formation in pre-schoolers and was not what I was expecting but was better in a different way! Instead of helping me think about stuff in work and how to do ministry with preschoolers, it helped me think about some stuff to do with my Masters and some issues I think through there. I have not been sure how to connect my Masters stuff with work and faith issues with kids but that seminar today helped to join some of the dots! Again a result!

Then came the best part of the day......JC came and we were going for dinner!!! I have really enjoyed the experience of being in Chicago and the conference and all of that but the best thing of this trip has been being able to see JC and hang out with her. And we discovered tonight that I will see her again on Saturday and go and see where she lives! I loved the year that JC and I had in Belfast when we worked at Fitzroy but we have only seen each other once since then and I have realised this week just how much I have missed our friendship, the seeing each other and chatting regularly friendship and it has been great to have that this week. I love friendship!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chicago: day 3

So today was the big day - the day I would get to see Willowcreek for the first time!! Now I am sceptical about these big churches at the best of times. I am sure they have good points but most of the time I see the negatives that they would create, especially in creating community - in a world where we struggle to get community as it is. Why exaggerate that in a church situation!! Anyway, as we drove in and walked into the building, for the first half hour I was struggling to find words to express what i was feeling - I kept saying "wow!" and "this place is huge" and I struggled for more words and descriptions than that - which is weird as I don't normally struggle for words!!

However as my day went on I found my opinion changing...not that the place is not still huge, I guarentee it did not shrink when we got there but on closer inspection a few things surprised me and things that I assumed to be true simply...weren't! There is no doubt that a lot of money has been spent on some things - like the technology in the main auditorium is incredibe - data projectors everywhere, huge state of the art screens, cameras, computers, lights and loads of people operating them - but everywhere else was a much simpler and less extravagent atmosphere. Willowcreek is not lavish - the furniture and decor is plain and unassuming, the floors and carpets are unassuming nad functional and instead of having all my senses bombarded with opulence, I was hit by the understated everything that I saw - and that really made me happy!!

The conference has been good today. There have been 3 main sessions with everyone together. The first main speaker was the guy who created VeggieTales; the second was apanel with 2 experts on spiritual formation in children and I really enjoyed it; the last was a look at finding strengths in children, by a woman who was very whacky and at times seemed a few sandwiches short of a picnic - bit it was interesting all the same and good to hear people who I did not entirely agree with or love listening too. They all made me think! Tomorrow will be different with the 3 tracks that I have chosen out of about 100 options - and it will be good to hear and be trained in sme children's ministry issues that I am really interested in.

Now I am sitting in our hotel room with a glass of red wine, exhausted but satisfied that today was a good day and hopeful that tomorrow will be even better. And we made some friends today who are staying in our hotel and that is always good!!

Photos of Chicago

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Chicago: day 2

Today has been a great day. After a leisurely - and healthy - breakfast we got ready to go and get the train to downtown Chicago. We arrived at the train station and after a short wait, got on a doubledecker train that took us to union Station at the centre of Chicago.

We grabbed lunch in Starbucks (where else??!) and then walked for miles along Michigan Avenue to Fourth Presbyterian where we were due to meet up with JC - a very good friend of mine - who is the Assistant minister there. We went to a next door pub with her and a few other people she works with for a St Pat's Day pint of Guinness and a good old chat. I haven't seen JC for about 3 1/2 years so it was great to actually see her and we kept looking at each other and being surprised that we were actually together!

Barbara and I then left and went to the 96th floor of the Hancock Building where apparently you get the best view of Chicago - according to all the people at 4th and David Schwimmer who had recorded the audio tour thing we used when we got up there! Anyway I don't have anything to compare it to but here are some photos and I think the view was pretty good!

Photos won't upload so I'll post them tomorrow!

We then went and met JC, Brent (who also used to live in NI) and their friend Paige and we all had dinner before Barbara and I walked back through the city to the train station to begin the hour long trek back to the hotel. It was great because the city felt really safe in the dark walking back to the station even though there were not that many people around and it was still really quite warm.

Now we are back at the hotel, shattered and with sore feet but a really good day and I can think of few St Pat's Days that have been more fun!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Chicago: day 1

So today was travelling day and it was long! Barbara and I met in Belfast at 7:45am and arrived here at 8pm (Chicago time) which is really 1am for us - so we are wrecked!! Flights were all on time though and we arrived at the hotel safely - and we have decided it is the nicest hotel room in America.

Here are some photos:

And the tv is a 42" plasma at the foot of my bed!

Thursday, 12 March 2009


So I haven't been very good at this so far and I plan to change that! I guess the excuse is busyness but also just lack of habit so I am going to set myself a new challenge to try and remember to do this! Barbara and I are going to Chicago on Monday morning to the Willowcreek Children's Ministry COnference called Conspire and for various reasons I am going to have my laptop with me and so I am going to challenge myself to blog each day about what we have been doing and maybe even some of the stuff from the conference.

I think that will be a good thing for several reasons:
1. It will get me remembering to blog
2. You will see the exciting stuff we are doing, inc. meeting up with one of my dearest friends ever, JC!!
3. It will make me think through and comment on the conference every day and that could be a good debrief for my brain - though the conference is only 3 of the days we are away but I think there will be lots going on!

So that is my pledge; now to see if it works!