NC1 2021 Reconvenes Participants with Caution

Posted by: DVULI | April 28, 2021

DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative

by Kimberlee Mitchell, DVULI Staff

Putting the DVULI training on hold in 2020 was utterly heartbreaking. We lost a few participants because the new 2021 schedule posed some conflicts, but we added some too. The class of 2020 pivoted and became 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗗𝗩𝗨𝗟𝗜 𝗰𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭!

Although the pandemic interrupted our 23-year streak, the five cohorts (Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Newark, and Oakland Bay) stayed in touch by checking in, praying, and supporting one another—via GroupMe and Zoom—during the 12-month wait. Hence, the “pandemic pause” provided a bonus year of bonding before heading to Orlando for the First National Conference (NC1). 

The eager participants were hungry for in-person fellowship and worship. With safety measures closely followed, on-site daily screening ensured the ballroom was COVID-free, adding a feeling of security for all. 

We learned that the safety protocol of limiting two people per table made for a more intimate, fruitful discussion and peer learning. Masking up forced participants to look deeper into each other’s eyes. 

In the absence of hugs, we found the right words to express emotions, and it proved cathartic. By mid-week, even the quiet participants were opening up and sharing. NC1 was a sacred space where truth was revealed. Tears flowed. Hearts were moved, and nuggets were gleaned. During free time, joyful squeals and laughter echoed through the lobby atrium as the cohorts (and staff) enjoyed family-style game nights.  

Worship, devotions, and the core values presentations brought down the house. There were several standing ovations but perhaps the most memorable was the one for Gordon MacDonald. The 82-year-old leadership legend commanded an impressive presence and imparted proverbial gems. The room hushed so his gentle and soft-spoken voice could be heard. One participant shared, “I felt like I was listening to my father!” 

All would agree that NC1 2021, held in person, was life-giving. Despite the safety measures, in some respects, the experience was elevated due to them! There was not one positive case all week among conference participants and staff. Shout out to the few participants who hung back but will have a private virtual session this spring.