Just got back from the NAM conference at Hothorpe where I acted as a group facilitator. I have had a great time - though I'm now pretty tired and still have a service to prepare from scratch...
My memories of my own NAM conference are that it was hard work and to a high degree a round of negativity - don't have sex with your church organist (as if....), don't help yourself to the collection, don't abuse your position, don't send texts to under 18's and don't have any fun in church. It was important stuff to be told, don't get me wrong, but it was all extremely heavy. The one blessing was that I made one or two new friends in my the small group of which I was part (Hi guys!) and the closing communion service remains as a moment of deep meaning.
So, it was with some trepidation that I set off on Monday. The heavy stuff was still there, but the experience was, for me anyway, very different. In Ian Coffey and Karen Smith we had too very different and very interesting speakers, and I was blessed with a lovely group of NAMs to work with.
My secret to a happy small group? A bottle of wine (or some orange juice) in the evening session and spending the final, morning session sitting out on the lawn as we prayed with and for each other. My group members were a diverse lot - different ages, colleges, theologies and churches - but each one was a special gift to the group: one brought humour, another vulnerability, still another quiet contemplation and yet another clear insights. We talked, we laughed, we prayed, we communed (over wine and crisps...!) and we shared in the few set tasks we'd been given.
At the end of the final communion service we were invited to metaphorically place the special thing God had given us into our 'non-writing' hand and hold it tight as something to take away with us. My special blessing, the thing I take away? The honour and privilege of sharing with these eight NAMs in particular and the other 50 or so in general.
They may go home as I did and moan about the 'don't do this' language but I hope that just maybe they, too made a few new friends, found something to hold onto and went away blessed.