I have just returned from the EMW (Evangelical Movement of Wales) Bala Ministers conference at Bryn-y-Groes. The theme this year was “the Glory of Jesus Christ in His Person and Work”.
Stephen Clark gave the three title addresses, Andy Pitt spoke on our identity in Christ, Lindsay Brown on Calvin the missionary, Mark Barnes on the current views held by non-believers, Adrian Brake preached on the life and Ministry of William Williams, Pete Campbell lead the prayer meetings and I spoke on Tuesday evening on what God can do with a little oil (2Kings4).
I do not wish to go into too much detail regarding the programme, just to say that it was well thought out with a real concern for the current needs of the delegates. I was greatly encouraged and stimulated by the content. As a speaker, I stuck out like a sore thumb among such titans of the EMW (Evangelical Movement of Wales).
I do not wish to elaborate anymore on the programme for two reasons.
- I scribbled so many notes down that this review would soon turn into an essay if I went any further.
- I feel it helpful to distance the programme from the conference, because as good as it was (and it was excellent), it is the other attributes that make the three days truly special.
There are many conferences that offer the high-level seminars akin to those expected at the Bala Ministers. They are all well organised, valuable and of course offer great discounts on books! However, the Bala Ministers conference is unique! For reasons you can only understand if you come! Yes, it shares in all the benefits of the aforementioned learning but it was packaged in a gentleness and sincerity that I had not experienced elsewhere.
The prayer meetings were fully attended each morning; the more academic material was not coldly presented but given in the love of Christ, the discussions (that included strong rebukes and challenges) were shared in a spirit of unity.
This was more than just a conference; it felt like a family reunion, young and old gathered together from all different circumstances, some had been coming for decades, others were there for the first time, but we all loved each other as brothers in the Gospel.
I shared meals with men who will go down in church folk law as bastions of the faith, I discussed philosophy and theology with leading and respected academics (embarrassingly asking them to sign copies of the books I purchased after the discussion), I enjoyed coffee with young prodigies set to take on the mantle for tomorrows church. We were reminded of old truths, and given new ideas to meet the needs of a changing world.
This week battle weary brothers had fun together, we enjoyed each other’s company, we walked, we debated and we relaxed in the idyllic setting of Bala lake.
We were all cared for so wonderfully by Gwydion, Catrin and the team at Bryn-y-groes, they truly are called to serve in such a way. The food was tremendous, you could almost taste the love that went into its preparation. Nothing was too much trouble for them to ensure our stay was as comfortable and beneficial as possible. Thank you!
You can pay for the Carson’s and the Keller’s, you can hire out a room, book a hotel and prepare a programme. The content will be good, and the time worthwhile. But what other conference do not give you is the spirit of love, care and gentleness that I received from Bala Ministers this week.
We were not professionals meeting, we were broken men seeking our saviour and He came and met with us and bound us together in love.
By God’s Grace I hope to see you all next year!