On the return trip I got to the airport too late to check my bag and was informed that I would have to be rebooked on a flight scheduled to leave four hours later. This was a blessing in disguise since this was a direct flight into Chicago whereas my original flight connected with another in Richmond, VA. At the security checkpoint I was told that I had been selected for a full body search. Since I thought I wasn't leaving until 8, I wasn't too upset. After being wanded and patted down I proceeded to the gate after indulging in a slice of Sicilian pizza (hard to find in the heartland) and a Pepsi. It's a good thing I didn't go wandering off because to my surprise my name was announced to board the 5:05 flight! This was too good to be true. Not only was I on a direct flight but now I'd arrive in the Windy City even earlier than planned. My excitement was short lived. When the baggage claim carousel for my flight came to a halt and my bag was nowhere to be found, I found out that due to my being selected to be personally searched (which included my luggage) my bag was placed on the flight after mine which wasn't scheduled to arrive three hours later. By now I had had my fill of airports. There was no way I was going to wait. The only alternative was to have the baggage delivered to my home somewhere between midnight and 4 AM. I slept on the couch so I could quickly answer the doorbell or phone when the delivery person called which was a little after 1 AM to tell me that he couldn't find my address. The story ends happily, however, as my bag and I were finally reunited about 30 minutes later.
But enough of my traveling woes. ETS was wonderful! I'm tempted to say that this was the best meeting I've attended and I'm pretty sure that my use of the superlative isn't just because this was the most recent. What made it so enjoyable? It was most definitely the opportunities I had to spend with old friends, to make new ones, and to introduce new ones to old ones. That's not to say I didn't greatly appreciate the intellectual and spiritual stimulation provided by the presentations I attended. I got to attend all of the sessions I wanted to and wasn't disappointed by any of them. However, what left the greatest impression on me was how good it was to be in the company of fellow believers who take ideas seriously yet who also know how to laugh heartily.
Here are a few of the highlights of my excursion:
- Shortly after entering the room in which the first session I attended was being held, I heard a familiar voice say, "Mr. Plummer!" It belonged to Stand to Reason's Greg Koukl, a good friend I hadn't seen since ETS met in Toronto in 2002. Later in the week I saw his wife, Steese, and met their adorable little girl.
- I also enjoyed meeting two other members of the STR team - Brett Kunkle and Alan Schlemon. It's enough to make a guy think about moving to southern California!
- In order to cut hotel costs, I shared a room with a seminarian from our church, his dad, and another father and son. I enjoyed getting to know these brothers but I have to say that the four of them really can snore. Of course, they said I was sawing logs too but I never heard myself! (For more on conference snoring, see Scot McKnight who also bunked with a group of guys in Philly.)
- Patrick Smith is an apologetics buddy who's now teaching Bible and theology at Michigan Theological Seminary. His was one of the first familiar faces I saw when I walked into the book display area. It was really good catching up with each other.
- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Dr. Eric Johnson gave a paper on Augustine's contributions to a Christian psychology. Though I wasn't able to attend his presentation, he did give me a copy of his paper and we had a stimulating conversation about the role of theology in truly Christian counseling. Dr. Johnson is one of the leaders of a new ETS study group devoted to psychology, counseling, and pastoral care as well as a member of the executive committee of the Society for Christian Psychology.
- I was able to personally express my appreciation to some bloggers I make it a point to read regularly. Between Two Worlds' Justin Taylor was there as was the A-Team Blog's Roger Overton (a.k.a. Murdock). Check out Roger's posts on sessions he attended here, here, and here.
- David Wayne, the Jollyblogger, had to drive to Philadelphia for a class Thursday evening but was kind enough to drive up earlier in order for us to have lunch together. He accompanied two friends of mine from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and me (technically, we accompanied him since he drove) to a local eatery where we talked theology, family, and had more than our fair share of laughs. I've succeeded in persuading David to join ETS. That way he can join us next year for the whole meeting to be held in Washington, D.C. where the theme will be "Christianity in the Public Square."