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Saturday started with bright eyes as the activity was only two blocks from our hotel and it we were due there at the relatively late time of 8:30. Besides we were going to interact with our fellow Lutherans from the Southeastern Synod. As we waited outside the ballroom waiting to go in, we chatted with Pastor Keith Cook from All Saints. Upon entering the ballroom for worship, we were greated by the music of the Starboarders.

There were boxes set up in the middle of the room that, as the service progressed, were taken down and rearranged to form a cross. A recurrent theme of the gathering was “breaking down the walls”.

During the worship we had two reflections from Bishop Julian Gordy. One comment that he made that really resonated with me is that no matter how old we get and no matter how many bible studies, worships and other church activities we attend, we are still always learning about God and “practicing our faith” in the sampraye way we practice piano or some other endeavor. We heard the words of grace from Bishop Gordy and I agreed as Randall said “everyone ought to be Lutherans”. After all, we believe in the grace of God, we are saved by what he has done for us because nothing we can do will ever be good enough. We proudly watched Rebecca Kolowe, Diaconal minister, assistant to the bishop and raised in the community of Messiah also led worship.

She led us in a prayer exercise that Randall and I participated in (Apparently Diane was not as involved in it as she had time to take this picture). After worship was over, we moved into small group study. I had agreed to be a small group leader but thought I was off the hook until I came upon a group of 14 when all groups were supposed to be 10 or smaller. Four of our youth seized upon this opportunity telling me “We love you, miss Rhonda”. The cynic in me said sure they can stay with familiar people rather than mingling with the others.

We did have Anne, an adult from Messiah Lutheran Church in Knoxvill, Tennessee join us to discuss the faith practices of 1) worship, 2) invite, 3) encourage, 4) study, 5) serve, 6 )give, and 7) pray. We only made it to five, however, before our time was up.

I wandered out of the ballroom for a break at one point and found Randall in conversation with Bishop Gordy. I think they were talking about resources available for worship that was similar to the worship we were experiencing at the gathering. I joined them and Rebecca told us that she was looking for a reason to visit Messiah but that she only visited congregations in trouble. I asked her what kind of trouble that was required as I could probably cause some. Before we left the Marriott, we took a picture outside of our worship space as part of our discipleship tour.

Anyway, we went from the Marriott Convention Center to our lunch location where we had the room upstairs that had an extra place set for Jesus.

After lunch, we headed to Jackson Square in the van to see the cathedral and do a little shopping. We had no rain on Saturday and the Jackson Square area was packed with Lutherans that had done the bare minimum in the rain but now seized the opportunity to sight see.

I dropped the group off at Cafe Du Monde and arranged to meet them at 4:30 so that they could get to the dome at 5:00 because it was our night to get in early to dome activities. Unlike other gatherings, they assigned three different color wristbands to each group so that each group got an opportunity to sit on the floor and Saturday was our day. I drove back to the hotel then walked over to the mall to make a purchase for Kay Spence and then got back in the van to pick the group up. I got to the agreed upon spot a little early, had to do some circling around and ended up following a horse and carriage to the pickup spot. As i pulled over, I watched another carriage start to pull off from the curb after dropping off passengers. All of a sudden, the horse didn’t want to go where the driver wanted to go, pulled over to the left, stumbled, and the carriage fell over dumping the driver on the ground! The crowd reacted quickly: one man quieted the horse, another picked up the man, a large group of people righted the carriage. I tried to let Diane get out as she is a medical professional but she couldn’t open her door because of cars next to us. The driver got up on his own so we hope he is okay. Needless to say, we were all shaken by this episode. We collected ourselves as best we could and proceeded on to the dome. I dropped them off, drove back to the hotel and proceeded on my walk to the dome. As I walked, I got a text from Randall that said “God be with us” and thought that’s a weird text so I texted back “Context?”. When I got to the dome, however, and saw the scene there, I understood. The doors would open and the crowd surged forward only to have the doors close again. I had only myself to worry about but keeping a group together was an extreme challenge. Our kids were great about protecting Claire in this situation which could be life threatening to her. When I got in, I made my way to the floor to meet the group. Sitting on the floor was amazing. We were mightily entertained by the junior Preservation Hall jazz band with renditions of I’ll Fly Away and the quintessential New Orleans anthem When the Saints go Matching In. Switchfoot played for more than half an hour and rocked the house. It was past 9:30 by the time we got out of the dome so we decided to skip Community Life activities and go back to our hotel and had some pizza. We were then sad that the gathering would end after worship the next day.