Ok, Here in the main auditorium and Dr. Brunson, the Sr. Pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville, and also the hosting pastor. His presentation is mostly a welcome and getting acquainted kind of a speech so far, but when I walked in we were treated to a presentation from Mike Huckabee's show, so we may be in for a measure of politics at the conference.
Anyways, the conference itself is shockingly unrecognized by The City itself. There are no ambassadors from either DVI, the Visitors and Convention bureau or even the chamber of commerce despite the thousands of people associated with the event, its importance in national affairs, or even the combined wealth of the participants (evangelical pastors arent Catholic after all, so there arent any vows of poverty at play here)
This is a missed opportunity for the city I think. And its silly I think.
I parked in the FBC parking garages and walked out across the street to meet a man who was apparently over a hundred years old for directions to the registration area.
Southern as he could possibly be, he also spoke my birth tongue. The building I needed to be in, he informed me congenially, was cattywhumpus from the main Auditorium.
Cattywhumpus is of course southern for 'diagonally across from and also kitty cornered'.
Right at home immediately.
I walked the short distance down the abandoned streets of Downtown Jacksonville, tidy, trim, wintergrey, and somewhat spartan over to the cheerfully appointed, contemporarily architectures Children's building.
Pastors Conferences are populated by great gobs of volunteers, all of whom are infectiously hospitable and sweet.
Very dear old women, still sporting the generational hair helmets of the daugters of the Kennedy/Nixon era and svelte in crisply tailored clothes mingle with slightly edgier young women who represent the digital divide that defines the generations.
I am squared away, and given a little love by the communications people, who are aware that we are liveblogging it, and set at ease.
Four years ago, there was an informal kind of coffee, cookie and 'internet' cafe which I mostly operated out of in order to access the unreliable and sparse wifi available at the time.
Boy howdy has that situation changed.
The wifi is blazing and practically everyone (from the centenarians down to the sassy indie girls) is on a mobile device.
In fact there is another visible generational divide going on with the pastors themselves.
The old siverbacks, replete with bossy, boxy suits a saltpork padded backsides and shoulders are sporting bibles large enough to choke any jonah inspired whale that might try and swallow them.
King James has never been so generously represented through paper largesse as in the persons of these older horn rimmed pastors, with their silvering hair and their punchy speaking styles
The younger pastors, a leaner-- more vegetable eating kind of species-- is largely equipped with ipad and tablet interfaces with the Gospel. Many of them have tasteful little note pads, just in case they need to write something down, but few of them have the luggage sized bibles of their elders.