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One of the joys of the Christian Reformed Church’s past two Inspire gatherings—in Detroit, Mich., in 2017 and Windsor, Ont., in 2019—was running into friends and colleagues one hadn’t seen for a while.

People attending this biennial denomination-wide event could stop to chat and catch up on one another’s lives and ministries. Participants from across North America could also tour parts of the host cities, hear from local CRC congregations, and visit community nonprofits.

Inspire 2021 is scheduled to take place Aug. 5-7 at the Tinley Park Convention Center near Chicago. But it is possible the in-person gathering could be postponed or canceled because of COVID-19.

Where will this leave the deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship planners, praise band members, refugee committee members, and those who want to learn more about how to serve their local church? How will they get together for plenary sessions, seminars, times of worship and simple times of fellowship?

The Inspire 2021 planning team is preparing for that exact possibility. If COVID-19 is still preventing large meetings and gatherings, the CRC is making sure the event—in as robust a way as possible—can be offered online.

“We’ll monitor the situation closely over the coming months to see if gathering together will be possible and what a dynamic virtual event could look like,” said Kristen VanderBerg, a member of the planning team for Inspire 2021. “Either way, our plan is to make at least some of the content available online for people who are unable to come or are uncomfortable with attending.”

Whether in person or via a virtual event, ministry leaders including pastors and authors Sandra Van Opstal, Ken Shigematsu, and Bishop Zac Niringiye are scheduled to lead plenary sessions at Inspire 2021.

“We have more than 80 workshops planned on a variety of topics, and we are trying to ensure that the workshop presenters, worship leaders, and speakers represent the breadth of diversity that we see in our CRC churches,” VanderBerg said.

This year’s theme, “Inspired to Be One,” will focus on celebrating the denomination’s diversity as well as the need to come together as one church.

Home to several CRCNA congregations and ministries, Chicago is the fourth-largest city in the U.S., with a mixture of cultures and peoples that makes the city an apt metaphor for what Inspire—a binational event for everyone in the CRCNA—hopes to be.

Inspire will connect people across generations, cultures, and missions, reorienting them to the hope of God’s kingdom.

All who are interested in attending are encouraged to mark themselves as “interested” on the event’s Facebook page or to sign up for Inspire emails to receive the most up-to-date information about speakers, workshops, and event logistics.

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