The triennial gathering is packed with a staggering array of events and opportunities. It might appear daunting or overwhelming, especially for the first-time attendee. Since no two women experience the triennial gathering in the same way, here’s the insider’s guide to making the experience just right for you.
1. Have a plan. If you’re the free-spirited type who wants to have the whole gathering wash over her, letting things happen as they may, skip to #2 now.
If you’re the type of woman who likes some order, read through the Gathering Guide, highlight your “must dos” and set a schedule. Figure out a plan that works best for you. Reading through the Gathering Guide sometime Thursday ensures you won’t overlook something during the gathering.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about some goals to accomplish during the gathering; write them down and bring them along.
While the gathering is full of exciting opportunities, you can’t expect to attend them all. It’s just not possible. If you are part of a group from your congregation, you might want to compare notes to plan ways of splitting up the gathering in order to gather up the most information to take back home.
2. Bring a gift. It’s not too late to purchase some gift cards for our in-kind gift collection. They’re light and pack easily and you’ll be helping to change lives with a small, but mighty gift.
3. Be open to the Spirit. Friday and Saturday afternoons are filled with workshops and servant events. Challenge yourself to attend sessions that introduce you to new ideas rather than attending sessions where you might feel the most comfortable. You can learn something new to take back home and share with women in your congregation. Have a plan to bail after 15 minutes if you’re bored in a session, and go to the next event in that time slot that interests you. Ask lots of questions: talk to featured speakers, presenters, authors, exhibitors, vendors and the women sitting next to you.
4. Bring along one great idea. What’s worked well in your congregational unit of Women of the ELCA? Or in women’s ministries in your congregation? Be ready to share that idea with women you meet. If that idea involved something tangible (e.g., brochure, flyer, hula hoop, gift item), bring one along as your visual aid. Meanwhile, seek out ideas from other women. Maybe you can replicate or adapt their work. Or, at least, you can learn to avoid others’ mistakes! We also have a Graffiti Wall in The Dor (the exhibit hall) where you can share and exchange ideas and stories.
5. Don’t forget your prayer life. Invite God’s presence into your day each morning, both now as you prepare for the gathering and while you’re in Charlotte. At day’s end, recall where you encountered God throughout the day.
6. Look for ways to build community. Everyone has to eat, so share a meal with someone you haven’t met before. Chat with the women around you in plenary sessions, workshops and servant events. You can even build community while standing in line for the rest room! The most interesting, informative and educational experience might happen not in a workshop but, rather, one-on-one.
7. Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You don’t even have to write in complete sentences. Just keep a daily summary of what you’ve learned. Use breaks to capture key issues, ideas and contacts. Spend a few moments each evening summarizing the day’s learnings.
8. Think about July 28th. You’ll leave Charlotte feeling empowered, inspired and ready to take on the world. Then you’ll go home, do the laundry and get back into your regular routine. By thinking about your post-gathering days while at the gathering, you’re more likely to arrive home with a post-gathering plan on what to do with all the new-found information, ideas and advice.
9. Be social. When contributing or consuming content at the triennial gathering, share on social networking sites, photo sites and micro-blogging tools. Use the hash tag #welcatg. Take a selfie and use the hash tag #iamwelca.
10. Channel your mother.
- Travel light, leaving room in your suitcase for items you’ll pick up at the gathering. Ship extra items home, if necessary.
- Leave hotel and contact information with someone back home.
- Make sure you can identify your luggage quickly since many pieces of luggage look alike.
- Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. Bring along a sweater, shawl or wrap—it can be cold in the convention center. (Or buy one of the new pashmina shawls featuring our Women of the ELCA logo!) You’ll do a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are essential.
- Recharge your electronic devices each night.
- Set your cell phone to vibrate during the gathering. If you must answer a call during a session, quietly exit the room and then take the call.
- If you’re traveling with a group, program everyone’s phone number into your cell phone.
- Don’t wear your badge outside the convention center.
- Monitor your own health. Bring along all your medications. Keep hydrated. Make smart choices and avoid unhealthy snacks. Rest when necessary. Get enough sleep. Be realistic with your expectations.
- Relax and have a good time.
Photo by Oliver Tacke. Used with permission.