There's no way that I can describe even a small part of the fun and fellowship I enjoyed from Thursday through Sunday at the sixth annual Baptist Press national Collegiate Journalism Conference. These are just a few hit-and-run impressions:
My three days in Nashville got off to a lovely start Thursday night after I lugged my overstuffed overnight bag into a shuttle van at the airport, where the only other passenger was a blonde coed chatting on her cell phone. The party on the other end of the line must have asked her if she was safe, because she answered, "There's another girl here."
She couldn't see it, because she was sitting in front of me in the van, but I positively beamed at the teen's calling me a "girl."
After the coed disembarked at Vanderbilt University, I asked the driver what was the stunning, palatial old stone building with the clock tower that was coming up on our right.
"That's your hotel," he said. "It used to be a train station."
I could not believe it. So that was Union Station! I'd had no idea that the hotel was at a historic site — a landmark, no less. What's more, it was easily the most beautiful station I'd seen, Grand Central notwithstanding.
Looking up in Union Station's lobby
One of the "Angels of Commerce" on the lobby's walls
The next morning, as I walked out of the hotel toward the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Building, the first building I saw was the giant Lifeway Christian Store across the way. Something told me I wasn't in Manhattan anymore.
I grabbed some breakfast from the faculty buffet in the "parlor" (a term that sounded quaint to these Yankee ears). It was immediately apparent that I could not avoid red meat in this town. Practically every item on the buffet had red meat. Even the fruit had red meat. (Just kidding on that one.)
Over in the auditorium, singer Jaime Jamgochian, who led the musical worship before the keynote speech (and who currently has a #1 hit on inspirational radio), wore a T-shirt imprinted, "Modest Is Hottest."
Dr. Michael A. Longinow is a rock star.
Watching the Biola professor deliver his keynote speech alongside PowerPoint slides, I hoped I would be half as engaging as him when delivering my own speech the next day. He walked a perfect, fine line between warning the nearly 100 students about what to expect at a media job (e.g. colleagues who assume that devout Christians are scary) and giving them hope. On the latter count, he urged them to perform well at their jobs and thereby earn the right to confidently display their faith. (He wasn't speaking of First Amendment rights, but rather of demonstrating to one's co-workers that faith can be part of the makeup of a talented, hardworking journalist.) He held up the legendary McCandlish Phillips, formerly of The New York Times, as an example of a Christian journalist whose undeniable talent essentially forced his media colleagues to take him seriously.
More tomorrow ...