Santa Barbara Mission Conference discusses the Christian mission's legacy and future
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The Santa Barbara Mission Conference is a day-and-a-half conference that works to “inform, inspire, and engage in the work of God’s mission”–this mission being “the reconciliation of all creation to Himself through Jesus Christ.” Throughout the conference, there are multiple worship services, workshops, and four plenary sessions.
This year’s theme was “Awaken” and featured two speakers. Nikki Toyama-Szeto, the Executive Director of Evangelicals for Social Action, spoke on the “God of Justice: Awakening to God’s Dream of Shalom” and “Priests, Prophets, and Purveyors–God’s Love Made Visible.” These sessions looked at a chapter in the book of Isaiah and the gospel of John. Toyama-Szeto urged people to pause and think instead of swooping in with superhero capes and the desire to fix everything and to look around and see what everyday part of each person God can use in a meaningful way.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was the keynote speaker and spoke about “Waking Up to Our Troubling Past: The Legacy of Missions in America” and “Waking up to America’s Miracle: Beloved Community as Mission.” Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of many books, such as “Free to Be Bound: Church Beyond the Color Line” and “Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom From Slaveholder Religion”. He is also the co-founder of Rutba House, a Christian house of hospitality in North Carolina. Growing up in the heart of the south, Wilson-Hartgrove spoke about how the ways early Christians responded to and interacted with slavery have affected and continue to affect the world and the way Christians today treat and evangelize to others.
Westmont students were given a special opportunity to meet with Wilson-Hartgrove during Saturday lunch for a Q&A. Students asked many questions and discussed topics like the emotional labor that comes from white people’s dependence on People of Color to walk them through and initiate reconciliation. There were also questions about how our generation can work to close the political divide in the nation and the importance of lamenting.
As well as hearing from these two speakers, the conference also had eight different workshop options people could attend. These workshops covered everything from global missions, to helping survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Santa Barbara, to a theological exploration of immigration. Following the end of the final workshop, Westmont alum, Sophie Rivera, reflected on her experience at the conference. She concluded that, “it’s a start,” in reference to the conversations introduced people’s ability to engage with those.
Next year’s mission conference is already in the calendar for January 31-February 1, 2020, and will feature Dr. Greg Boyle as the keynote speaker.