One evening, while I [Carol Howard Merritt] was at a church meeting, my husband Brian Merritt was talking with our friends Ryan Kemp-Pappan, Katie Mulligan, Scott Cervas, and Gideon Addington on Twitter. They were exhausted by big-name, celebrity Christian conferences and wanted a place where they could hang out, get to know each other, and discuss the things that mattered most to them.
They didn’t want a conference, they wanted an Unconference. By the time I got home, Brian and Ryan had brought me in on the project. After more phone calls and Twitter chats, we met at Meadowkirk in Middleburg, Virginia in 2010. We used an open-space format for our gathering.
Then with the leadership of Christopher Harris, in 2011 we moved to the Stony Point Conference Center in Stony Point, New York. Megan Hansen started KidUnco, making sure that we had a great space for children to garden, play and create. In 2012, we broke off into two locations, one at Stony Point and the other at San Francisco Theological Seminary. In 2013,
Deb Avery facilitated West and Shannon Meacham facilitated East. Derrick Weston, Aric Clark and I have emceed the events, and a tremendous array of talented hosts, musicians, technicians, and discussion partners make it happen.
UNCO grew and spread as it attracted creative, high energy people. It became a perfect place for students and practitioners who longed to engage in innovative ministry. We have seen amazing projects come out of UNCO conversations and we have had the honor of walking alongside many people to support organizations and ministries like Love Wins in North Carolina, Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center in Tennessee, the Garden Church in California, Sanctuary for the Arts in the Bay Area, and Love of God (LOG) youth ministry in New Jersey. Books have taken shape at UNCO, like Never Pray Again and Reframing Hope.