Preparing for Big Tent 2015: A conference. A homecoming. A wedding?

New format unites 'conference of conferences' in missional focus

April 21, 2015

Joe Richardson, Scott Brown, Richard Richards and Scott Neely, all from Greensboro, N.C., provided music leadership at Big Tent 2013.

Joe Richardson, Scott Brown, Richard Richards and Scott Neely, all from Greensboro, N.C., provided music leadership at Big Tent 2013. —Danny Bolin

Louisville

Thomas D. Hay, director of assembly operations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of the General Assembly, is inviting Big Tent 2015 participants to think of the gathering in a new way.

The new perspective comes from a change in format—rather than being many individual conferences, ministry areas and partners will unite in a common agenda with more concentrated focus areas.

Hay says keynote speakers, Bible study, worship experiences and workshops—along with social time—will be coordinated under a single agenda to provide conference attendees flexibility while reducing competition for time.

Held on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the July 30 – August 1 event is still open for registration.

Following is the full text of Hay's invitation letter:

When is the Big Tent Conference of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) like a wedding? That's a question being answered now by the conference planners anticipating the Big Tent 2015, July 30 – August 1 at the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, Tenn.

Big Tent has been compared to many things. It is like a national homecoming for the church, where friends—both old and new—come together for worship, Bible study and fun. The very name Big Tent brings to mind the best carnival ever, where the excitement is around things of the spirit and the soul. Some people like to say Big Tent is like a General Assembly without the voting and the politics.

But because the 2015 Big Tent is different in so many ways from those of the past, people have begun to think of it as a kind of wedding.

One difference from the past is that instead of being a conference of conferences—ten in one location—this Big Tent will bring these ministries together around the single theme of being a missional church. Leadership from these distinct ministries will be in attendance along with their passion for evangelism, ruling elders and world missions that characterized the individual conferences.

Celebrating this unity in diversity, the conference focus has moved to keynotes by principle speakers and preachers. Laurene Chan, Director of Youth Ministries at the Cameron House in San Francisco; Jana Childers, Professor of Homiletics at San Francisco Seminary; and Paul Roberts, President of Johnson C. Smith Seminary are the featured preachers.

Members of the choir from St. James Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., ended Big Tent 2013 on a high note with songs of joy at the closing worship service.

Members of the choir from St. James Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., ended Big Tent 2013 on a high note with songs of joy at the closing worship service. —Danny Bolin

The 2015 Big Tent will have its first featured Bible study, with Kang Yup Na, an exciting scholar from Westminster College will lead an examination of Luke 15. Nationally known speaker and author of “Nun on the Bus”, Sister Simone Campbell will address the ministries of Poverty and Hunger. Roger Nishioka and Scott Weimer, both of Atlanta are featured speakers on ministries of discipleship and advocacy respectfully.

Add to all this workshops, celebrations and music to inspire—along with ice cream—and you have quite a conference!

The second difference is the location. The Big Tent leadership, in response to many comments from past events, committed to doing something we haven’t done as a national church in a long time—get away from hotels and convention centers and move to a college campus. The result is a huge savings for participants who now get three nights of housing and seven meals, along with registration, for just $395.

The University of Tennessee campus creates a unique opportunity to be a community together. Participants will share meals in one dining hall, rediscover their colleges days in dorm suits (each two-room suit has a private bath), and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of a great southern university.

Participants from the Big Tent children and youth program wowed the audience as they performed at the closing worship service of Big Tent 2013.

Participants from the Big Tent children and youth program wowed the audience as they performed at the closing worship service of Big Tent 2013. —Danny Bolin

This is where the wedding image comes in. Have you ever been to a farm wedding—you know one of those weddings in a peaceful pasture somewhere with all of the relaxed atmosphere of cabins and streams and nothing better to do than enjoy the day and the people gathered? That’s Big Tent in 2015! Not as frenetic as a big city festival, this Big Tent will be a place to be together, renew and relax. It is a place for families and singles, young adults and long-time Presbyterians.

This Big Tent will be all about making new connections and reconnecting with people as passionate about mission as you. This Big Tent may not overpower you with dozens of workshops at any given hour, but you will be empowered by the slower pace to engage your heart and soul with God and others.

Big Tent 2015 will be like no other Big Tent, we know you won’t want to miss out.

Thomas D. Hay
Director of Assembly Operations
Office of the General Assembly

  1. That sounds very interesting ....even to a "FL Gator" guy!

    by Charles Layne

    July 1, 2015