Warmth in Winter, Night 1

Well, it’s been a great event so far. There was some confusion at first figuring out where we were supposed to be — if you’ve ever wandered around the Opryland Hotel, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It turns out that our big group sessions aren’t even in the hotel; they’re in the Gaylord Opryland Event Center, a large stand-alone building located on the path between the hotel and the Opry Mills parking lot.

The adult drivers dropped everyone off at the hotel, parked the cars at Opry Mills and walked over. Jon Brock and I were parked in the same place and walked back together, and in the lobby when we arrived looking for Donna Brock — who had our room keycards — I saw my nephew James Carney, who’s attending as a youth with Bell Buckle UMC. Later, I saw his older brother TJ, who’s actually on the design team putting this event on. TJ will be on stage in a skit of some sort tomorrow night and will be doing something on Sunday as well. I also saw Rev. Amanda Diamond, pastor of Morton Memorial UMC in Monteagle and a great friend of Mountain T.O.P., and Monica Lewis, who used to go to First UMC and now goes to Bell Buckle UMC with TJ and James.

My father’s church, Mt. Lebanon UMC, has a group here too, but I haven’t seen anyone yet. Dad was under the weather today but may try to make it up tomorrow to see the Mt. Lebanon group as well as TJ in his skit. It depends on how he feels.

Tonight’s program was excellent. Stephanie Caro gave a very simple message — even the teens remarked that it was more of an introduction than a message — but was likable and relatable, and I think I’ll enjoy her. The City Harmonic were great as the worship band, as was the illusionist who did a trick tonight. There was a reference to the “Love Feasts” that John Wesley used to organize, and so we had a little tribute to that — each person received a donut hole, as well as a little cup of water. The water was a reference to a woman who’d just spoken about a charity that provides clean water for the developing world. The fellow who leads us in a couple of simple dances before worship starts — I don’t remember his name, but he did the same thing at last year’s event — is a hoot.

I am dead tired from dancing, walking, and standing, but it’s a good tired. Just as I wrote that sentence, Jon Brock — my hotel roommate — remarked that the kids seemed pretty tired when we gathered in one of the hotel rooms for an end-of-the-evening devotion.

It’s going to be a great weekend.