I had the hang of it today. My friends and I arrived in good time for a coffee before the sessions. I sat with a young pastor from an outer Sydney church. We had a nice chat.
I dawdled to the session to avoid having the music squad inflict its aesthetic on me again, and was pleased to have been partly successful. I still caught the last song but at least the gyrating 20 something singer was not there.
Before the speakers we heard a couple of children read the Bible, and well done too. Also a video from Nowra profiled the wonderful YAC (youth at church) program: keeping younger people growing in the church. But I remain of the view that a more structured induction to Christian faith is necessary.
The first speaker was Allan Demond, a pastor at NewHope Baptist church in Blackburn, Victoria. One thing I like about the website is no mention of the paid ministers as a special class, truly the site is about the church. He was very encouraging and wonderfully animated about Christians as those who take God's grace to where they are...in whatever amount. I like his refrain of the 'ancient faith practices': prayer, reading the Bible and stewardship (he said 'giving' but it still works).
I skipped the next 'workshop' having been under-impressed by yesterday's efforts. Instead I relaxed, chatted to a friend at one of the exhibits and read my book (De Joinville's Memoirs of the Crusades, from about 1309). It was wonderful to read the godliness of the times, even though we might not follow their practice (and acknowledging that they didn't either)!
The lunch routine worked for me, although hungry I had to wait until the mystery lunch clerk turned up. Being there early I got the sandwich and fruit of my preference, but had to supplement the rations with extra purchased food. I've no idea why my pre-paid included a bottle of water when the taps were full! Consumerist nonsense.
After lunch the session was taken by Leon Stead. I was impressed by his talk yesterday, but not so today. He is a polished and impassioned speaker, but he did not connect with the audience, I thought, and delivered the harangue! I thought that I'd escaped that, and it left me feeling despondent and discouraged...could I measure up to the standard that he applied? Of course not! We're back to works it seems and Christ is displaced.
The 'workshop' following was Allan speaking on Following Jesus through the Disciplines. I had great hopes for this, thinking of the deep traditions of prayer, Bible study and reflection across Christian history. I was disappointed to find that it was a lock-step approach that I must say left me cold: formulaic and uninviting. Allan admitted that this was just one way, but I feel that it could have been done far more attractively. I left part way through as I had to get to another appointment.
When my taxi arrived I felt relief as I rejoined the world of everyday. Discussing the conference with a friend, I felt he put his finger on it in his question: "was it more Baptist than Christian?" Yes, more's the pity.