So, this weekend Philippa and I went all the way to Milton Keynes (well, actually to Newport Pagnell – just outside MK) for the 9:38 Annual Conference. This is a conference which is geared towards people who are considering full-time Christian work, and had a variety of useful seminars and talks designed to help people think through the issues.
We drove down on Friday night (through rush-hour traffic) – and somehow managed to get there in good time! We had dinner (the food was excellent, as it was all the way through the weekend. We were staying at the De Vere Harben venue. Although it is quite possibly one of the ugliest buildings in the area (viewed from outside), it was comfortable and well-equipped inside.) After dinner we had the first talk from Vaughan Roberts, and I played piano for a few hymns. It was rather nerve-wracking as I was on my own, but there were only three hymns which I knew so it went OK. Afterwards we all split up into prayer groups for a while, and then went to bed!
On Saturday we had a rather packed day. In the morning we had a prayer group session, as well as two talks / meetings: Andy Gemmill talked about “What is Gospel Ministry?” and Tim Silk did “How do I know I’m called?”. Both were very helpful and gave plenty to be thinking about! The music went well too – I was joined by Philippa on the clarinet, and three other people playing violin / piano / guitar / hand-drum (or combinations thereof). So we had a little music group going, and I think by the end of the time we were actually sounding quite good.
Aaaanyway. After lunch, we had some free time followed by a couple of seminars – we had chosen one on Anglican ministry, and then one about apprenticeships and training. Again, both of them I found very helpful and with lots of food for thought! After dinner, Vaughan Roberts interviewed four people who had been involved in gospel ministry career-wise, and it was really interesting to hear all their stories. No two people who I spoke to at the conference had the same story – some were similar, but it just goes to show: when God calls people, he definitely cares about the individual, it’s not just a matter of a “one size fits all” kind of plan. We then had another prayer group and went to bed.
On Sunday, we had one more seminar on theological education, and then it was time for the final prayer group session. After that we all came together as a group one last time for Vaughan Roberts’ second and final talk, which was very good, and then lunch and home.
*phew* Sorry to take so long writing that up… I thought it might be useful to have in case anyone else was thinking about going on a 9:38 Annual Conference! We both found the experience tremendously helpful and would happily recommend it to anyone thinking about going into full-time ministry. It’s definitely challenging but there are plenty of people who are very willing to help you talk through the issues. I also very much enjoyed meeting and talking to people who were in a similar position to us, it was really encouraging.
Right… I think I’ve rambled on enough about that now. Sorry, etc. etc….