Seven high school youth and two chaperones (including yours truly) from Messiah travelled to Nashville, Tennessee at the beginning of July for the Higher Things conference at Vanderbilt University. As has been our custom, we usually take the kids sightseeing for a few days before and/or after the conference. Friday the 2nd was a travel day, then Saturday the 3rd our sightseeing began.
Our first day was spent in downtown Nashville. We didn't run into too many celebrities, as we were told we might. We ran into the fellow with the balloons in the above picture. We also saw Miley Cyrus at the airport, but we have no pictures to prove it. (Really, we did.)
This was a great sign on the tip jar at Mike's Ice Cream Fountain.
Here's David and Bob on the "Duck Tour." You can just barely see our other adult leader Jackie getting some sun in the back.
Broadway Street, downtown Nashville.
On the middle row of blocks above you can see the water line from the recent flooding. For the most part, you couldn't even tell that there had been a major flood there. The cleanup was remarkable. However, the symphony hall, Grand Old Opry and Hotel, and the nearby mall were still shut down and undergoing repairs.
Here's David getting a chance to drive the "Duck" on the Cumberland River. I say "drive" loosely. It was more like "floating in circles."
What stop in a major city is not complete without a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe?
We also made an educational visit to The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's estate.
Later that night, we went mini-golfing at Grand Old Golf.
Sunday, July 4 we went to church at Redeemer Lutheran Church. Turns out they were the host congregation for the Higher Things conference. We thoroughly enjoyed their warm welcome and "southern hospitality." Then, we returned downtown and hit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Next, we headed over to Riverfront Park to park ourselves and get ready for the free concert and fireworks. It was a sweltering wait, but well worth it.
Trace Adkins was the last of several performers on stage before the Nashville Symphony came up to perform while the fireworks went off.
Monday the 5th, we drove two hours through the beautiful Tennessee countryside to visit the Cumberland Caverns. There was a big yellow box at the picnic area which simulated crawling through some of the tight spots in the caverns. Bob got a little stuck for a while, which earned him his new nickname: "Bob-in-the-Box."
Here's the crew heading into the entrance of the caverns. The rest of my shots inside weren't so hot.
Monday night we left our hotel near the airport and checked in at Vanderbilt. On Tuesday morning, we headed out to have breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, a Nashville tradition.
Evidently, there's always a line at the Pancake Pantry...rain, snow, or sun. As you can see, that was the case when we were there, too.
Once the conference got started on Tuesday afternoon, we soon found that we were going to have to do a lot of walking between our dorm, the auditorium, the cafeteria, and the classrooms where the sectionals were being held. Fortunately, all the buildings had air conditioning which was in tip-top shape.
The worship and the plenary sessions were held in a large auditorium. We were told that there were 1,104 registered for the conference ... and the auditorium seats 1,104.
Pastor David Kind (above) spoke to the group about the structure and history of the liturgy, explaining why we do the things we do in the Divine Service. Pastor Mark Sell was the other plenary speaker, reminding us that "The most important things in life are BORING."
Whenever possible, Higher Things conference worship is held in a chapel on the campuses where the events are held. But when this isn't possible, the organizers do a fine job of creating an atmosphere suitable for the daily prayer services. Worship is always a highlight of a Higher Things conference, adorned by the fantastic organ playing of Chris Loemker.
This is NOT a Higher Things worship service. This is at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville. Higher Things rented the whole place out for the night. Matt Ramsey and his band started us out, followed by line dancing lessons.
One of the more creative mixers we had was the t-shirt exchange. We were asked to bring a t-shirt which was collected at registration. Later in the week at a scheduled time and place, we received a different t-shirt, then had to find the person in the group with the t-shirt we brought and introduce ourselves. This is the shirt I first received, but ended up trading for a shirt from Texas...the guy that originally got it said, "I hate Texas. Can I have yours?" I obliged.
By the end of the week, we were all pretty beat. The schedule kept us hopping from early into the morning until late at night without much of a break. Meals, worship four times a day, plenary sessions, in-depth sectionals, and breakaway sectionals fill up the schedule at every Higher Things conference. By the way, just so I don't embarrass Bob too much with the above picture, truth be told this was before the session had started ... he was alert the rest of the time.
Friday the 9th was the last day of the conference. We had some time to kill before our flight on Saturday, so we cruised around the park across from the Vanderbilt campus.
I have no idea what this structure was at the entrance to the park. I just thought this picture turned out pretty cool. Looks like an album cover for a rock band.
The park also has a replica of the Parthenon, although we didn't get there in time to see the museum inside.
At some point in the coming months we will be having a "Thank-you Dinner" for the congregation. The people of Messiah have been extremely generous providing the majority of the financial means for the youth to attend youth gatherings and conferences.