Louise Miles, a member of Christ Church Walkley went to Bradford in October for the Northern Women's Convention and tells us about it here...
I’m not sure what I was hoping to get out of the Northern Women’s Convention this year, it was quite a last minute choice to attend and maybe not really having had much time to think about it meant that I came to the convention with a more open mind than otherwise. I signed up for two sessions; one about Reading the Bible with Children and one called The Joy Set Before Us. If Im completely honest I was really interested on the morning seminar about Feminism and Christianity but I felt like I should attend the Reading the Bible with Children seminar as I’m not very good at that and I thought it was the most useful one for me. I chose the seminar about Joy because it sounded really positive and I’ve been struggling recently with getting bogged down in the negative things of life.
As soon as we arrived it was encouraging to see Christian women from all over the place gathering together and really lovely to see some very welcome familiar faces, for a place I’ve never been before it felt strangely like coming home. Mags and I had Theo and Delilah in tow so we unloaded them and set about finding out where our seminars were.
It was really great to attend the main gathering at first and be introduced to the speaker, a really interesting lady called Agnes Brough, who was so very different from what I was expecting when I saw her! She works mostly with youth and you could really tell from her style that that’s what she did. She was down to earth and matter of fact, very wise but very clear and between her Scottish accent and her delivery, she really reminded me of Susan Calman (this is intended as a compliment!) It was really fascinating to hear her talk about the experiences of her church The Tron in Scotland and the difficulties they have had finding a building after they were evicted from the building that they had occupied as a result of being unwilling to sanction gay clergy. It was really encouraging to see how God had a plan for their church and was with them all the way despite it seeming to be a great defeat which really challenged the way I think about our situation as a church family.
Agnes took us through the book of Malachi with the question “is it worth it?” challenging us to think about the cost of being Christians today, what that means for this in a variety of different situations. She talked us through the “complaints” that the people of Israel were levelling at their God in Malachi and how it is so relevant today. As if petulant children they demand of God “but how have you loved us?” And God is rightly angered. I was very challenged by this as I am fully aware for the many times my own attitude complains to God, whether it’s the giving up of time, money, comfort etc I am very quick myself to feel hard done by and forget the many good gifts I have been given.
The first seminar went really quickly and it was really encouraged to be surrounded by women who are all really committed to teaching the Bible to their children. One of the things I really came away with was one of the women said that it was important to “teach your children big truths that they can grow into”. I’m so often discouraged by the fact that there is so much I need to teach the boys that I don’t try or else I worry about how to teach them things that won’t merely be head knowledge but that will change their hearts. Listening to older and wiser Christian women talk about their own journeys was really interesting and encouraged me to keep going in the knowledge that it is ultimately Gods work.
The final seminar I went to was all about heaven and what we have to look forward to, the joy set before us towards which we race by Gods grace. When I was at uni I spent a lot of time thinking about heaven (whilst reading the theologically somewhat dubious Left Behind Series) but I haven’t really spent much time doing that since and it was really encouraging to spend some really quality time thinking about heaven. Agnes asked us how we would answer this question from a 7 year old “in heaven will I live with my mummy and daddy?” She explained that she answers this question with yes, not what I was expecting! She explained that at the moment on earth Christians are scattered about and when we meet in churches or at conferences we get a little taste of heaven as we are meeting then in “scattered gatherings” but in heaven we will be in “gathered gatherings” in our larger perfect family. I found this a really interesting idea which I’d like to learn and think more about.
I’m always encouraged by large gatherings of my Christian family and I found myself thinking about how much I had enjoyed Renew South Yorkshire too, it’s so good to see the people you have missed and hear the word taught faithfully and to stand in big groups singing Gods praises is something I always find moving so among many things I have taken away from the NWC is that I am looking forward to the day when we are all singing Gods praises at that great “gathered gathering” in heaven when there will be no need for the words to be projected onto a screen as we will know them all by heart!