As a long-time member of the Evangelical Fellowship, but one who has not attended for some considerable time, it was with varying feelings that I came to this latest conference. Amongst the things I was looking forward to was (for me) seeing the old ‘spiritual home’ of EF, also renewing friendships and meeting new people who had become a part of the fellowship since I was a more regular attendee. But in addition, I was greatly attracted by the title of the conference ‘Aloneness and the Extravagant Generosity of God’. This title was touching me long before I arrived.
Wanda Nash was excellent in her presentation and the thought and preparation she put into the sessions was clear for all to see. Aloneness came into all of the talks with titles like ‘Alone = All One’, ‘Each is Every’ , ‘All are Each’ and ‘Every Each is Ever Each’. But while there was an emphasis put on us as unique individuals, we were also guided to think about how we each fit into the realm of others, how we each have a part to play in a greater good, and how other people have an influence in how we are as individuals. And yet in all of that we are still very much our own person – a person in relationship with God and with others. We were also shown the impact of how these relationships – with God and with others – can impact on our lives in so many ways.
We were shown ‘A Progress of Love’ which shows us how we can progress through the various stages of love, from Love of Self for Self’s sake, to Love God for self’s sake, to Love God for God’s sake, through to Love self for God’s sake.
We were also guided to think about the various parts of knowing ourselves; from the Head Knowing, GOTTAS (Wanda’s word), where we can be dispassionate, to the Heart Knowing, where we can have highs and lows, through to the Gut Knowing, WANNAS (again Wanda’s word) which is something much deeper – it is the real thing.
We also did a little self-awareness questionnaire to find out our drivers – the things that ‘drive’ us in our lives. And I think that for some of us we were somewhat surprised at the outcome of this as to what forces we do actually have in our lives which do actually drive us.
For me there was also something about ‘letting things be’. This included letting others be, letting possessions be, and letting words be. All these things should be allowed to ‘let be’ – let them be there, but perhaps not to rule us, not to take over ourselves or our lives. And in each of them we can perhaps see things which we hadn’t previously seen, and perhaps even see that there is more to simplicity and silence than we might have previously thought about
Much of this was concentrated on the Saturday sessions. The Sunday session was somewhat skated over and turned into mini workshops based on what we had been given from the previous day’s work. But the programme for the Sunday was enough to fill a complete conference in itself: and it would be wonderful if Wanda could be persuaded to come along and take what was supposed to be the optional Sunday session and make it into a full weekend at some future time. I’m sure she could make it into another wonderful conference.
The Sunday Worship as always was inspiring, with almost everyone who was willing taking some part in the service. It was a worshipping community at its best. The singing was uplifting, the reflections were thoughtful and the atmosphere was so wonderfully spirit-filled, that I’m sure all of us could take something from it, and probably most of us got a lot from it. It was a wonderful ‘high’ on which to end the conference.
Grateful thanks to John Blowers for all the work he put into the organisation of this, and also to Wanda Nash for such wonderfully led, thoughtful and inspiring sessions. For me it was a most uplifting conference.