Conference attendees celebrate, honor hospitality staff
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. – Church planters in the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) held their final conference here at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort last week (August 7-10). They’ve been coming here since 2003.
To honor the memories of the place that has become “holy ground” for them, the “Living, Dying, Rising” 1001 New Worshiping Communities (1001 NWC) conference planning team organized a celebration on their last night for everyone—including the TradeWinds staff.
As 1001 NWC Coordinator Vera White presented staff with gifts, including a shadow box and handmade table, she thanked them for teaching conference attendees over the years about hospitality. “Our hope is to honor you,” she said, “by making sure that people coming to our worshiping communities feel as welcome, at home and as special, as you made us feel.”
Rob Hyypio, TradeWinds Convention Services Manager was overwhelmed by the “heartfelt gifts” and kind words, so much so that he found it “difficult to hold back tears.”
“It’s hard to say goodbye when your clients actually become friends,” he said. “We’ve immediately displayed the shadowbox in the breakroom for everyone to see. I’m sure we’ll do something creative with the table at banquets.”
Ironically, at the end first conference here in September of 2003, the entire group had to be evacuated due to the approach of Hurricane Charlie.
Dennis Funderbunk, stated supply pastor at H.O. Graham Metropolitan Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was at the 1001 NWC conference for the first time. He recently began reading up on the NWC movement. This summer when Betty Meadows, Transitional General Presbyter of Charlotte Presbytery, visited H.O. Graham he peppered her with questions.
He “felt the Spirit moving through him,” when she encouraged him to pursue his interest in the movement. Two weeks later Meadows told him White was coming to Charlotte to do a 1001 workshop. At that training event in early August she invited him to the national gathering here.
“I’m so thankful I made it,” said Funderbunk. “As a pastor who’s been challenging congregations to do outreach—only to hit a wall—I’m excited to see this ministry starting from the bottom up, at the grassroots level.”
Funderbunk ran a successful feeding ministry in the nineties’ in another denomination, but a church split destroyed the program. That loss left him with “bumps and bruises” and a battered faith. In 2003, he became an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.)
On the third day of the conference Funderbunk said he had a “resurrection moment” of letting go and imagining the kind of ministries that are possible through the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement.
1001 NWC conference attendees had a “Rising” worship service on the beach their final morning together. They spent time sharing resurrection stories, remembering their baptism and writing words in the sand—describing their experience during the week at “Living, Rising, Dying.”
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.