As the ministry of ACT3 developed over the last five years I began to lead occasional lunch gatherings that felt a bit like those old Whitefield Fellowships that I wrote about yesterday. These fellowships began in 1981 and continued until about 2000. At one point I lead four of these groups in the greater Chicago area. Many of my friendships, and church-based relationships, came out of these groups. (Several Whitefield Fellowships still exist in other cities. These are, in some instances, led by people that I helped to begin them in these other places.)
These Whitefield Fellowships took many shapes and forms over the years. Most of them were lunch meetings held at my own church and then, later on, at College Church in Wheaton. (One was a breakfast meeting in the south suburbs, for example.) We invited a guest to speak and then conduct dialogue with us. The attendance varied over the years but ranged from lows of 10-15 to highs of over 100. The important thing was what came out of these meetings. Deep and lasting friendships were formed. Pastors were encouraged and lay leaders, as well as women ministers and lay leaders, eventually began to attend as well. All seemed to find a unique place where theology and ministry were taken seriously and friendships could develop naturally over the course of time. Both the topics we addressed, and the people who were present, were encouraging and challenging. I have always believed healthy gatherings such as these are a blessing to the church at large.
During our transition to missional-ecumenism in the late 1990s these Whitefield Fellowships lost their way to some extent. One reason was that I formally moved away from some of the partnerships that had built them, partnerships that were too narrow for the vision I had been given during the desert years. Another reason was my spirit was just very tired. I was doing everything I could to survive personally. We had taken some huge blows, personally and financially. I went through one year when I spoke in a public church setting only three times all year! I ministered to one person here and another there but most of the public venues I had enjoyed in the late 1990s seemed closed. It was time to take a break. I had to seek the Lord and focus on my own soul. The deep work of love that God began in me will be discussed in the next few books that I hope to write but this work continues to work in me to this day.
A few years ago I sensed a desire to begin a new (less regular) series of meetings at the Holiday Inn in Carol Stream. These ACT3 Luncheons drew anywhere from 10-35 people on a Tuesday. We had some excellent speakers come and engaged in discussion and friendship with pastors and lay leaders again. As time went on I realized that God was calling me to do these types of events again, with a new emphasis on missional-ecumenism. This would mean that the speakers should come from the whole catholic church, not just from a small segment of the evangelical Protestant churches.
As 2013 came to an end the future in this regard became much clearer to me. To this end I have scheduled four ACT3 Luncheons for February through May, 2014. If these go well we will do four more in the fall and thus seek to make these a regular occurrence so people can plan them into their busy schedules with some regularity.
The ACT3 Luncheon Series will provide a unique opportunity to interact with religious leaders who are interested in mission and ecumenism. Several times a year we will invite a guest speaker to interact with us in Carol Stream (IL) at a Tuesday luncheon. These lunches will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Master located at 580 Kuhn Rd, Carol Stream, IL 60188. The lunch begins at 11:45 a.m. and the presentation and interaction will end by 1:30 p.m. Anyone interested in attending may register but you must sign up to attend since we cater the meal.
Here are the first four presentations in 2014. You can register for any of these at www.act3network.com.
Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth
“An Orthodox Spiritual Journey That Stayed in Wheaton”
Fr. Tom Baima
“Saved Unbelievers: Understanding How Pope Francis Is Not a Universalist”
“A Humble Conversation about Jesus with a Christian Science Practitioner”
“Chiara Lubich: A Charism of Unity for Our Time”
If you look over these speakers, and the topics, you will see a rich diversity and subjects that should be unique for most of you who can attend. The goal is learning and listening, with an strong focus on Christian unity and Christ’s mission.
I plan to videotape these presentations so that we can broadcast them online. This will not allow for the Q & A to be part of the dialogue online but it will at least preserve the speaker’s presentation from each luncheon and expand the outreach to the world via the web.