After an absence of more years than I had realised I got myself down to Swansea this week for the famous Eccentrics Conference, the brainchild of the unique Steve Levy and now based in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. The conference's distinctives (apart form being Reformed and very Welsh) are its brevity (only a day and a half), no singing, a great deal of informality, plenty of humour and lots of time for informal chat. None of the messages are taped - probably freeing people up to speak in a more relaxed and open way. They also make a big effort to look after us (day one included an afternoon trip to Joe's for ice cream, followed by scones and cream, with a slap up meal a short while later).
The programme changed last minute as one speaker was unable to come. It worked out okay in the end. We had four speakers who gave six messages.
Paul Mallard is a well known and popular speaker (currently pastoring in Bath) and he gave us two expositions from the life of Elisha. Warm and thorough they were good messages to hear. Steve's good friend Paul Blackham (now based in Neath) took us to Isaiah 11 and gave us a very stimulating exposition of the return of Christ. Refuting Aquinas's super-spiritual beatific vision he argued for a much more biblical bodily resurrection and participation in the life of the new world.
Steve has also struck up a friendship with Peter Greasley of Christchurch, Newport and he was given opportunity to speak. He spoke very warmly from the heart from Philippians 2 and Romans 5 firstly pleading for honesty and humility and then to expect trouble and to help one another in it, which involves seeking out fellowship. It was interesting to hear later of Pete's journey.
It was agreed by all present that the highlight of the conference was Chris Rees from Narberth speaking on what he wished he's been told before he entered the ministry. There were three things - to trust no-one but love everyone; how important it would be to watch over yourself; how hard it was going to be (spiritually, mentally, physically). Full of wonderful stories it is not possible to convey what a blessing it was to ear so I won't try.
It was great to see Mike Leaves, Jonny Raine and Steve Tucker, Dave Gobbett, Jeremy Bailey, etc, etc and to meet people I'd not met before. It was good to catch up with my Swansea based son and his housemates too.