Experiencing Community at EMERGE 2019

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Emerge 2019 attendees were treated to an amazing experience thanks to the generous hospitality of the Sheraton staff, the guidance of the Visit Greensboro team, and thoughtful planning of the RCMA staff. 

This was my first time at Emerge, and I was floored by the kindness and warmth of the RCMA community. There was a palpable joy among the attendees which was only amplified by serving opportunities, dynamic speakers and educational breakouts. Emerge 2019 was the living embodiment of RCMA’s tagline — Where Faith Meets.

Though it’s impossible to recap every great moment from the event, here are some highlights from a fantastic week in Greensboro: 


Emerge 2019 taking place in Greensboro meant many attendees were escaping the 2019 polar vortex just in time. After an intense Monday of travel delays, re-routed flights and long airport hours, the RCMA family woke up on Tuesday ready to serve. 

Emerge 2019 was graciously invited to witness the great work being done in the Greensboro community by Out of the Garden Project, Greensboro Urban Ministry, The Servant Center and the Interactive Resource Center. 

We were also treated to some of the most inspirational sites around Greensboro, including a tour of historical churches and faith centers, unique shopping venues and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. 

Greensboro boasts a truly unique lifestyle, with a flair for southern hospitality, cultural diversity and a foundation of faith. For those reasons, Emerge felt right at home in this North Carolina city.

Tuesday came to a close with an incredible time of connection, food and art as we were hosted at the Greensboro Coliseum, home of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Spartans. There were countless local vendors serving delicious food and offering their guests an authentic taste of signature Carolina dishes. During dinner, the RCMA family was treated to work of some talented Greensboro artists as they continued the long day of community. The opening reception was a great way to prepare for the week to come. 

But not everyone in the RCMA family was ready to call it a night. 

Dozens of people continued to chat at the Late Night Community Connection, soaking up every possible minute that allowed them another chance to share their story and hear from others. 

It was a rich, full first day in Greensboro. And the event was just getting started. 


The morning session, sponsored by the Greensboro CVB, started off with a literal bang, as we were welcomed in by a talented drum line from Dudley High School. The high energy of the musicians was the perfect lead-in to our first speaker, the prestigious Dr. Nido R. Qubein

Dr. Qubein offered a challenge to the RCMA family to really examine what it is we’re bringing to the table and what kind of legacy we’re leaving behind. His message, humor and heart resonated deeply with the RCMA community. 

After the breakfast session, the Expo kicked off featuring endless fun and creativity from CVBs whose welcoming attitude was a great representation of their city. There was ice cream to eat, dogs to pet and swag to bring home. 

Many different cities impressed with their design and presentation, but the Best in Show award went to the folks from Myrtle Beach for their display and balloon octopus. Great work, Myrtle Beach!

After the first taste of the expo, the lunch session (sponsored by Experience Columbia SC and Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board) featured Dr. Rick Rigsby who brought his endless energy and passion to push us further in the work we do. The RCMA family responded to his words with enthusiasm. 

“I truly enjoyed Dr. Rick Rigsby. ‘Make an Impact, not an Impression,’” said Marlinda Henry, Director of Events and Planning for Full Gospel Baptist. “Here's my twist that I have being using since his session, ‘an impact changes lives, an impression receives social media likes.’"

The compelling messages from the our two keynote speakers were the perfect way to engage with the breakout sessions that followed. Attendees were given the chance to hear from leading industry experts on a range of topics, from safety to the value of relationships and even looking ahead to the future. Never was it more obvious that Emerge 2019 came ready to learn than in the informative and crucial breakout sessions. 

After more connection at the expo, attendees were given a free night to rest, explore Greensboro or keep the conversations going at the Sheraton throughout the evening. Many visitors took the chance to hit local restaurants and experience some genuine North Carolina barbecue. After a full day, there was no wrong way to get ready for what the final day had in store. 


Our business session and breakfast was sponsored by Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, who also shared with us the exciting things happening at their hotels across the country. That led into some big announcements for RCMA, including the news that Keith Kershaw would succeed the retiring Melvin Tennant as the new board chair! It was also announced which board members would be retiring, who would be continuing on and who would be joining the board. 

It was powerful to see such leadership on the Emerge stage at the same time, and it felt great knowing that RCMA continues to be led by remarkably gifted people. 

More enlightening breakout sessions followed for the next few hours, and attendees were excited to share their experiences. 

So many different topics were covered and discussed that everyone seemed to be filled with new knowledge and ideas when the breakouts ended. Attendees left feeling better equipped to do even greater work moving forward. 

When lunch time rolled around, we were ready to gather as a bigger group and learn about the next chapter of Emerge. Shortly after the lunch session began, we learned that Emerge 2020 will be held in Irving, Texas! It was great to be introduced to this amazing city and we’re already excited to discover all that Irving has to offer!

Before heading to the closing reception, the RCMA family had one last chance to serve the community and spent the afternoon packing school supplies for under-resourced schools and children. It was inspiring to witness the heart of the RCMA community continuing to give their time and energy to those who need it most. 

At the closing reception at the Grandover Resort we witnessed the RCMA leaders honor one another and recognize the tireless work done by their peers. The prestigious President’s Award was presented to Kelly Harrill, General Manager of the Grandover Resert, for his steadfast dedication to service and quality hospitality. 

The night was brought to a close by the moving and comedic storytelling of Kelly Swanson, whose delivery and accessibility made for a compelling closing message. She was both genuine and bombastic, inspirational and silly. Emerge gave her a standing ovation.

With that, Emerge 2019 came to a close. We had a full week of service, community, education, laughter and reflection. Through the hearts of Greensboro, the dynamic keynote speakers, the breakout presenters and everyone who attended, we came away from Emerge 2019 with a better sense of who we are and what we’re about.

Drew Brown