Inspire 2021 Delayed Till 2022
After much discussion and consideration, the executive committee of the Council of Delegates has decided to delay Inspire 2021 for one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer the event in a hybrid form with some virtual elements included.
Inspire is a three-day biannual event that brings people from across the Christian Reformed Church in North America together for learning experiences, worship, plenary speakers, workshops, and much more. The next event was scheduled to take place Aug. 5-7, 2021, in the Chicago area.
“The situation with COVID-19 remains quite uncertain,” Colin Watson, executive director of the CRCNA and a member of the Inspire 2021 planning team, explained to the Council of Delegates executive committee last week.
“Even if restrictions are lifted by August, we anticipate that the size of gatherings will continue to be a factor. Bringing nearly 1,000 people together for a face-to-face conference does not seem likely, even if borders are open and travel is permitted. At the same time, Inspire is intended to be a time of fostering unity across our denomination. A virtual-only event did not seem appropriate either. We want to have the option to physically gather and be together.”
The executive committee heard that the Inspire planning team had also conducted a survey of previous Inspire attendees.
“With borders being closed and the vaccine being offered late summer to Canadians, it will be very hard for Canadians to attend,” said one survey respondent.
In fact, the survey showed that the majority of Canadians would not feel comfortable crossing the border to attend an Inspire event in Chicago this year. The same survey indicated that many people felt the optics of planning a multiday event, for a gathering of around 1,000 people, was not appropriate for the church at this time, even if Chicago public health would allow it.
While some survey responses indicated support for a virtual, online only conference this summer if a physical gathering was not possible, others argued against it.
“Two major benefits of Inspire are the gathered worship times and bumping into and gathering with Christians from all over in unstructured encounters. Sadly, an online gathering would hardly duplicate those two,” one person wrote.
Inspire planners agreed. They also felt there was another reason to delay.
“In our conversations with friends and family over Christmas, we noted that if borders begin to open up this summer, visiting with loved ones will take priority over attending a church conference,” said Chris Schoon, another member of the Inspire planning team. “Even if we had an online-only event, we aren't sure that people would attend Inspire in the summer of 2021 if that is when they have finally been vaccinated and are allowed to travel to visit extended family.”
As a result, the COD executive committee endorsed the decision for Inspire 2021 to become Inspire 2022. It will be held at the Tinley Park Convention Center near Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-6, 2022. Many of the other key aspects of the 2021 event will also be carried over to 2022, including plenary speakers, offsite workshops at Chicago-area nonprofits, and a diverse praise and worship team.
But Inspire 2022 will also offer something new. Whereas Inspire 2017 and Inspire 2019 were offered entirely in person, Inspire 2022 will provide more online content and the opportunity for some people to join remotely.
“One of the gifts of 2020 was that it allowed us to participate in conferences that we could not have attended before,” said Watson. “We want to tap into these learnings and make parts of Inspire as accessible as possible to everyone in the CRCNA. Plenaries and some workshops may be made available free online so that everyone can get a taste for this event.”
Despite the delay of Inspire 2021, there will still be opportunities to access some virtual CRCNA events in 2021. Resonate Global Mission, for example, is offering a Glocal Mission Summit online May 13-15 on the theme of "On the Road to Witness."
The event will feature a variety of plenary speakers, group conversations, and other resources and will help individuals and congregations reimagine evangelism and discipleship in a world changed by COVID-19.
In addition, a small sample of Inspire 2022 may be offered online in August 2021 to whet people’s appetites for 2022. To learn more, visit crcna.org/Inspire and sign up for email updates.