You are invited to Chicago next summer. That’s because Inspire 2021, a binational event for everyone in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, will be taking place Aug. 5-7 at the Tinley Park Convention Center near Chicago, Ill.
Chicago is an ideal choice for this three-day event. Each Inspire event is built around bringing people together from across North America to network, learn from, support, and encourage each other in all sorts of ministry. Chicago too is a place of connection. Just a small swamp town 200 years ago, Chicago rapidly developed as a center of trade. Today Chicago is the fourth most populous city in North America. It is known for its unique diversity, spirited people, and classic midwestern hospitality. It is also a major transportation hub, easy to access by plane or car.
Rev. Reggie Smith, the CRCNA’s director of Diversity, is originally from Chicago.
"Chicago has always been known as the ‘city of the big shoulders,’" he said, referring to Chicago’s importance to the United States as a country. “Poet Carl Sandberg saw this city as a place with a wide enough platform to support making concrete things, sparking innovation, and launching new dreams.”
While Inspire hopes to pick up on this theme and be a place of innovation and inspiration as well, the mixture of cultures and peoples that makes up the heart of Chicago is also a great metaphor for what Inspire hopes to be.
“Whether you are a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, a worship planner, a praise band member, a refugee committee member, or just someone who wants to learn more about how to serve their local church, Inspire is a place for you,” said Kristen deRoo Vanderberg, a member of the Inspire 2021 planning team.
“We have more than 80 workshops planned on a variety of topics, and we are trying to ensure that the workshop presenters, worship leaders, and speakers represent the breadth of diversity that we see in our CRC churches.”
To help build excitement for Inspire 2021 and engage in some learning about Chicago, the event planners are encouraging everyone in the Christian Reformed Church to cook some Chicago-inspired food.
Inspire 2021 planners are hopeful that an in-person event in Chicago can happen next summer. Even so, uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to Inspire 2021 being held virtually, and plans are being made for that as well.
“We’ll monitor the situation closely over the coming months to see if gathering together will be possible and what a dynamic virtual event could look like,” said Vanderberg. “Either way, our plan is to make at least some of the content of Inspire 2021 available online for people who are unable to come or are uncomfortable with attending.”
If Inspire 2021 takes place virtually, it will involve much of the same learning opportunities as previous Inspire events. There will be workshops, plenary speakers, dynamic worship, and meaningful connection with others in ministry.
This year’s theme, “Inspired to Be One,” will focus on celebrating our diversity as a denomination, as well as the need for us to come together as one church. Inspire will connect people across generations, cultures, and missions, reorienting to the hope of God’s kingdom.
Says Smith, “Inspire 2021 will be a wide platform to ‘dream new dreams’ and ‘join the Spirit’ back in our local platforms of ministry.”
All who are interested in attending are encouraged to mark themselves as “interested” on the event’s Facebook page or to sign up for Inspire emails. In this way, they will receive the most up-to-date information about speakers, workshops, and registration.