NASHVILLE (BP) — Every year around this time, I sit in a dark, cold, windowless room 16 hours a day for eight days. And I love every minute of it.
Technically, the room is different each year. But you’d never know that. They are always about the same size with the same high ceilings, fluorescent lights and heavy doors. The interior rooms of convention centers are all alike.
But right now instead, I’m overlooking downtown Nashville from my sixth-floor office window. It’s a lovely view, so why does it make me sad? Because I’m not in Orlando for the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.
This would have been my 17th year overseeing the Baptist Press production room at the annual meeting. Almost all the same people come to help with the task each year. They don’t do it because they love sitting in a dark room all day and night. And they certainly don’t do it for the money. They do it because they love Southern Baptists and what Southern Baptists are doing to advance the cause of Christ around the world.
It takes dozens of people to produce the coverage Baptist Press provides during the annual meeting each year. Writers, photographers, videographers, A/V techs, always a few college interns and church laypeople who man the newsroom reception desk. They all have other lives, jobs, businesses, obligations. But they take a week off every June to help tell the Southern Baptist story. Because they love it.
And I love them. I often joke that I spend 2 percent of my life with these people. But it’s not really a joke. It’s true. I know them better than I know some of my family members. We have laughed together, shared meals together, told stories to each other and watched each other’s kids grow up.
Many years, I have not made even one pass through the exhibit hall or sat in the meeting hall for more than 10 minutes. I’m stuck in that little room, helping make sure the story of what’s going on in those other places gets told as quickly and accurately as possible.
I sometimes regret that I can’t be in the room for the worship or the preaching or the business sessions and instead must watch it all on a closed-circuit TV. But if I could trade, I wouldn’t. Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been late at night in that little room with those same people, who are tired and punch drunk and buzzed on Cheez-Its and Coke.
The work done at the annual meeting is important. Sometimes eternally so. But I think the fellowship is what brings people back. We Southern Baptists have our fights, but they’re not so bad when we’re all in one place together.
I sure will miss being at convention this year. I’ll miss the sermons. I’ll miss the music. I’ll miss the discussions and arguments and votes on important issues that affect eternal things. But mostly, I’ll miss my friends.