Long and awesome day! The morning began with more wonderful music by Robin Mark. Our keynote speaker was Ruth Haley Barton, who spoke about finding God in solitude and silence. It was a heavy topic for nine-in-the-morning, but just so good! Her speaking style was gentle and intimate, and she led us through her own journey of finding a discipline of solitude and silence. She also spoke a lot about the barriers we create to prevent us from sitting in that place, and how we can fight those barriers. Finally, she brought us into a brief time of silence. I just loved her talk. I even bought her book. (Poor, Visa! Working so hard these days!)
My first seminar was on Improving Worship Leading Skills, and I was so excited about this one. I'm starting to do a little worship leading, and I truly desire to learn more about this skill. Our workshop leader was Andy Piercy, who's from Holy Trinity Brompton in England, which is famous for being the home church of Nicky Gumbel and the Alpha course. (Love the Alpha course!) Andy gave us lots of tips and guidelines for leading worship, but the best of the bunch had to be "love your congregation". What simple advice, yet something so few of us have consciously considered. In loving them, you want to earn their trust, and then lead them into a joyous and accessible worship experience. Andy was awesome! I could have studied with him all day.
I missed the mid-day section as I had to run downtown to teach a baby-music class, but I got back in time for Robin Mark's talk entitled Warrior Poets of the 21st Century. This was great! I've heard the term "warrior poet" before in discussions of archetypes, but Robin used a story from Judges to show the role and importance of warrior poets in the church and in society today. He helped us all to see our personal role as warrior poets, and then brought it around to show how Jesus was the ultimate warrior poet. Just so powerful!
In a side story, Robin told us how he has no real education in music. His degrees are in business and math and such. He didn't start to play guitar til he was 20. And yet God has chosen him to write songs that bless people around the world. What an awesome testimony! If God wants us in His service, He will give us the tools we need!
Our evening musical worship was led in 2 parts. The first was by Vicky Beeching, a young worship leader from the UK. She was at the conference last year, with a few songs and an EP. This year, she's back from a stint in Nashville and a new full-length CD. She's obviously doing well - everyone there knew her songs! Our second leader was Paul Baloche, who's written such songs as "Open the Eyes of My Heart" and "Above All". What great energy! He's just full of joy, and he filled the house with praise.
Our speaker tonight was Mike Breen, an ANGLICAN vicar from England! He was very funny and charming, with a great message called The Grace of Evangelism. He started by saying that most of us have some fear and hesitancy about sharing our faith with others. But he then reminded us of how Jesus prepared his disciples for ministry, and from that lesson, he gave us tools to use in finding opportunities to talk about our faith. I'm not from an evangelical background, and I will completely admit that I've never brought anyone to Christ, nor have I even invited anyone to Christ. But Mike's talk encouraged us all to simply be ready for the moment when someone asks about our faith. Have an answer when someone says, "What's your secret?"
It's been a long day. I'm drained and invigorated. Looking forward to tomorrow ...