Several years ago (I confess that it has been so many that I can’t remember when) Kay and I were considering our vacation options for the summer. Frankly we were financially broke. We had taken the girls on a once in a lifetime Disney vacation a year or so before, and were still paying off the bills incurred at the house of the mouse. I was in the middle of trying to write a book (a project that since when by the wayside) and needed some time away to write. Kay, on the other hand, had been hearing about this guy named Trevor from South Africa who would be speaking at Lake Junaluska in the summer, and was being encouraged by a fellow staff member to attend this conference there called SOULfeast, sponsored by our friends at the Upper Room. Our family didn’t have any money for vacation, but both of us had pretty large continuing ed. allowances in our positions, so discerned a means by which we could go to Junalusaka with the kids and also get in some continuing ed., which would help offset the cost of the trip. So that summer we loaded up the minivan and headed to North Carolina, not really sure what to expect, but knowing it was the only way to get some time away.
Once there we discovered a conference unlike any other we had ever attended. This conference was designed specifically to offer opportunities for youth and children, and within days of being there, SOULfeast became an instant tradition for our kids, who can’t imagine not attending. During that time we experienced the wisdom and passion of Trevor Hudson for the first time, a South African pastor who didn’t mince words in calling people to a vibrant and embodied faith. We experienced worship that pushed on the boundaries of traditional United Methodist practice, with the worship leaders (of which I would become one several years later) taking risks to make worship fresh and new for folks of all generations and backgrounds. Kay and I had both been to Lake Junaluska before for church meetings, but SOULfeast introduced us to the rhythm of the lake, a way of being that allowed for rest and relaxation in the midst of learning and worship. Most importantly, we come to experience an entire community of fellow SOULfeastas who took seriously God’s call in their lives, and who seek after God’s presence with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
What was to be a one-off cheap vacation became sustenance for the soul, an opportunity to go on pilgrimage as a family, each seeking after God in our own unique ways, but united in our love of the lake and the joy of gathering with friends to praise God and have fun.
This year’s SOULfeast looks as amazing as ever, and I want to make a pitch for any who are able to come join us in July to experience Trevor Hudson again, as well as a whole host of others who will help all to rekindle our faith and help us to better experience the holy in our midst. I will be writing more on this in the coming weeks, but it’s my prayer that some of the folks who read this blog become SOULfeastas as well, for I am confident that you will experience something powerful in this event.
For information on this year’s SOULfeast, click here.