You know what I don’t do enough of around here? Who, what, when, and where. I write almost every post with the assumption that I’m talking to Mom, you lovely people who comment regularly, and a few kind members of my old community and my new one who’ve told me they check in most of the time. And then I’m not even that thorough for them. I rarely say a name in place of “my friend” or a time and a brand in place of “the other day at the store”. I throw out anecdotes about teachers and preachers and my workplace and the things I want to do more than anything else in the world – all with a huge cloud of vague. I do it for many reasons – but two important ones: 1) Details you cannot relate to (specific names) can be boring, and 2) I live in mortal dread of immortalizing a detail that is either negative or too shiny or completely incorrect. Vague is so much more forgiving.
But, having just circumnavigated the globe – or, Illinois – and emerged from a delightful creative experience, I thought I would be just a hair more specific and actually tell you what the heck is up.
STORY is a conference for creatives, specifically Christian creatives, but I hesitate to put something so wildly full of possibility into such a narrow box. Still, it is especially designed for those who want to communicate their faith (some would say, The Gospel) through art. Church art directors attend, whole worship teams, and anyone who writes, makes films, paints pictures, or otherwise finds their calling in the creative and their worldview in Christ.
When you arrive (and I’ll use this year as the model for my description, though the format will change considerably next year), you are given a stunning artistic book with the schedule, the presenters, informative pieces, ads, and pages for notes. The doors do not open early – they are thrown open when the time is right, and you take in a stage that has been set for two days of nonstop awe. This year, it was draped with a rich, red material like the curtains of a theater. Panels that seemed to be covered with crushed velvet changed colors with the lighting. A screen displays the name of the conference, STORY, and later creative animation behind the action on stage. You begin at 9am Thursday morning with music. This year the opening act was Sleeping At Last, who happened to write the song that is played during the wedding scene in Breaking Dawn Part 1. His voice and music moved us, and STORY had begun.
What follows is a series of sessions, each with a musical performance, one or two speakers, and occasionally even an MC you would pay good money to see. Sometimes they share their art. Always they share their why. You soak it in, greedily, mining for the gems that will shape your own creativity when you leave. If they share a how, you want to run on stage and kiss them square on the mouth. They don’t usually do this.
Between sessions, they stuff you like spoiled, rich children. We are a room of Verruca Salts wanting more, more, more of the inspiration – and getting it in small, breakout sessions in the “festival spaces” throughout the venue – a band downstairs, an author in the corner. And we are part Augustus Gloop, because – as in the case of this year – colorful theater performers stroll on giant bicycles and in costume delivering snacks and drink. It is ridiculous.
It takes place in Chicago, so if you’re lucky – like me – on either side of the conference, you get to take in a city that is one of the most architecturally pleasing on the planet. In one of the Midwest’s two most delightful seasons. You also get to kick back over coffee and lunch and just-before-bedtime with creatives you love dearly or creatives you’ve just met and mull over all the cool things you have seen and heard and determined to apply to the rest of every day of your life.
That is STORY. Specific goodnesses, like the moment when Erwin McManus told me I don’t have to believe King Solomon’s words that “There is nothing new under the sun,” because why should I put too much importance on the words of a person who had come to believe all was meaningless, will probably be sprinkled throughout blog posts to come. Only now, when I share them vaguely, you will know the who, what, when, and where.
Visit the STORY Chicago website for more.