A couple of weeks after taking 2 day trips to New Wine, some thoughts on the conference. Fellow blogger Steve Tilley has already put up his thoughts, interesting reading!
Main talks - done by one of the several St. Aldates Oxford speakers, Simon Ponsonby. Hadn't come across him before - I liked the way he got into the Greek and wasn't afraid to dig deep into the text. Was a bit less sure about the fact that everything he said about the church was negative. Okay, it is appalling that during the whole of his selection process for ordination, nobody once asked him if he loved Jesus - something which for Jesus was a pretty vital qualification for leadership (see John 21). It was good to have a mixture of passion and scholarship, and to have one or two 'soundbites' - a quote from (surprisingly) Nietzche "a long obedience in the same direction" which is about as good a definition of discipleship as I've come across.
Seminars: I tended to pick out the ones on mission, and they were all very good. Lots about how things are changing and how to get the church ready, and John Dunnett from CPAS was especially good.
Went to one on 'community', which is something which keeps cropping up at the moment, led by a bloke who leads a community house in Bristol. Some good stuff on the kind of shared values and rules a community needs, and on the kind of things which lead people to live in community:
- defensive (to preserve a tradition)
- offensive (a sense of mission)
- spiritual (to create a place of prayer)
- vocational (a sense of calling)
- idealistic (seeking to create an alternative society)
and that the best and healthiest communities combine these qualities.
My struggle was that this was all about intentional community at the Premiership level - community houses, monasteries etc., and my quest at the moment is for an intermediate level - something which lies inbetween this and the common use of 'community' to mean people living in the same area or sharing one common factor (e.g. 'the online community'). How can the church, or a cell group, or any group of Christians, embody community in a deeper and more practical way? How can the mission cells in the new estates live as dispersed community in various households and workplaces, yet with common values, prayers and goals? I guess this would be something like the 3rd order Franciscans, or something like a 'rule of life' community which is bound together by the 'rule', even though they live separately.
Evening talks: Can't remember a thing about Monday apart from lots of knocking on a door with a big stick. It was about Revelation 3, but nothing specific has stuck. I was a bit tired by then anyway. Baroness Cox on Tuesday was excellent, talking about the persecuted church, obviously a woman of massive courage, but presented in such away that you forgot the speaker and put all your attention on the message. Frightening stories - Chrsitians in North Korea killed by having molten lead poured over them, Christians in Sudan being denied aid unless they convert to Islam (and then face the death penalty if they try to convert back), Christians in Nigeria being murdered and brutally assaulted by jihadist mobs. Hearing that a Dutch bishop wants us all to call God 'allah' alongside all of that just made me fume - the story is probably already being shoved in the faces of Christians in Muslim countries: 'look, one of your own bishops says we have the right name for God!'
General ambience: really good, liked the fact that coffee and cakes were served in all the venues, so you could grap a cappucino during a long anecdote, or munch through a chocolate doughnut during the soundcheck. The marketplace was full of interesting stuff, and found a company that does coffee machines, may be ordering one for our cafe service.
I always enjoy New Wine, though I find myself not getting as carried away in the worship as I once did, don't know if that's age or a bit of jadedness creeping in. (It may just be that the music isn't really my genre, if we had a lyricist who could rewrite Coldplay and U2 songs for worship that would be more my cup of coffee.) The festival doesn't seem to be getting 'stuck', there's been quite a bit of change at the leadership level, and a good variety of speakers and tweaks to the format. I also like the chance to get prayed for, which seems to be offered at New Wine at the slightest opportunity - the anonymity of a big festival is good, and it's a reminder that I need prayer just as much as the next man.