Here at New Word Alive until mid morning on the second day there was no Internet on the whole site except slow phone connections if you are able to find the right spot. As a direct result of this I was unable to get the following piece I wrote for the on-site newspaper to them to print. This is quite ironic considering the content below. I thought that rather than wasting it, I’d share it here though no one here will be able to read it! I suppose the advice may help some as they prepare to attend other conferences:
It is often said that once you have done something three times in a row you have forged a habit. So, whether like me you have been at New Word Alive for the past three years, or you are here for your first time, you are very welcome! There are some things that remain fresh however many times you have experienced them, and others that will be refreshingly familiar. As our week begins I find myself filled with anticipation for new experiences and yet a comforting sense of deja vu.
For those of you that are new, and did not read these sheets last year, my columns aim to provide an intensely personal view of the event. I will express in a diary-like form how one person finds this year’s conference.
One thing that will never grow old for me is the amazing sense of wonder I feel on the drive here over the Welsh mountains. Each year I listen to Handel’s Messiah while driving. It somehow feels appropriate to express the wonder and majesty of God revealed in such a beautiful part of his creation.
Have you ever considered the Bible’s interesting relationship with nature and cities? The Bible begins in a garden and yet ends in a city. God is interested both in the business of our daily lives being lived for him and in the quietness of time spent away from all that and closer to nature.
I really believe that one of the most important things to be sure that you will get the best out of an event like this is to get the appropriate level of disconnectedness from the world you leave behind. In this regard, please see the sometimes-patchy phone and Wi-fi coverage as a blessing rather than a problem. Switch that laptop or phone off and leave the problems of your daily life behind you. It is as if Jesus himself is calling us to come away with him for a while.
But as you connect with God, be alert for some vital points that will link you right back to the life that feels so remote right now. We must not allow ourselves to think that this week has nothing to do with the world we have left behind. God will call us at times during the week to reflect with the benefit of distance on the way we are living our lives, and to assess ourselves in light of his word. Our study of the Bible is not meant to be a purely intellectual exercise. We are to be doers of the word not hearers only. Ask yourself at points during the week, “what must I do differently when I get home in light of what I am learning?”
Try and get some time to contemplate, reflect, and pray: just you and God, perhaps watching a sunrise as I did last year, or walking along the beach. The very direction of your life might change as a result.
But this week is not about being a hermit. Each of us needs to relate to God one on one but God has sent us here to spend time with friends old and new and to gather corporately. Don’t miss out on the varied and rich programme that is available, but don’t overdo it too! Remember to have fun, and look out for new people that our Father might want to bring into your life this week.
As you meet with people and worship together, remember one thing. There may be many things that at times feel a bit different to what you are used to. You might find at times that you even feel uncomfortable. Despite that, however, the wonderful truth is that we have all been gathered together by our shared love for Jesus and the wonderful good news of his death and resurrection. We come from very different backgrounds, but almost everyone on site this week is a fellow Christian. Be prepared to be surprised by what you learn both from the sessions and from chats over coffee with someone who just minutes before was unknown to you. There are no strangers here, only brothers or sisters you have not yet met.
The Sunrise I saw last year: