We’ve rolled out the red carpet at the Inter-Varsity Canada booth in the Urbana Exhibit Hall. We chose red so we’d be easily recognized (although just to be certain we’ve also hung a gigantic Canadian flag). There are 250 exhibitors here. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
When I visited the exhibit hall earlier today to see how our booth crew was doing as they set things up, I realized the red carpet serves a purpose better than patriotism. It underscores an unspoken message to everyone who walks by our booth: Come in and visit, sit and chat with us a while. We’ve been waiting for you.
Red is the colour of royalty. At Urbana, everyone ought to feel like a royal visitor, highly favoured, important, and so very, very welcome.
The theme of Urbana 12 is the Great Invitation, based on Jesus’s famous story about the Great Banquet. In that story, not everyone who receives an invitation responds. And I suppose that’s true of Urbana as well – not everyone who was invited said yes.
But close to 16,000 people did. They are here and tonight when the conference officially opens in the America Center Dome in the City of St. Louis, the fact that they have come will be cause for great celebration.
There will be music and dancing and lots of applause. People who have come from 100 different countries will be welcomed as family. Worship will be multi-lingual and multi-cultural.
We hope that even the most tired Urbana participant will be roused by such a welcome.
We know, after all, that most people arriving at Urbana are weary. The travel stories are already piling up: buses delayed for hours at border crossings, planes grounded by snowstorms, luggage lost. There won’t be much time for rest as the week proceeds.
And so, at the Inter-Varsity Canada booth, we’ve placed couches on top of our red carpet. Every afternoon, when the Exhibit Hall opens, we’ll be ready to welcome anyone who stops by, to chat, to rest, to tell us what God’s been saying to them during Urbana 12.
We’ll keep you posted on the conversations as the days go by. But right now, gotta run. Urbana 12 is about to begin.