Wednesday, May 12, 2010

city fog and brave dialogue converge on the frontier

The first day of the Colour conference (Hillsong’s women’s conference) began with me meeting Jan and Jack in the hallway of the hotel at a quarter to eight to go down to breakfast. It was a cooked breakfast, so that was nice, although the sausages weren’t as nice as other sausages I’d had in England. But the bacon was quite nice and so was the toast.

When we got to the Royal Albert Hall where the conference was, we had to wait outside the doors in the cold for a long time, but I got to meet several of Eleanor’s friends.

We finally got inside, and went up to where we were sitting, in the upper balcony. The view was grand – the place is huge and very ornate. They were playing big triumphant music, which added to the feeling of grandeur.

I am not going to narrate the conference event by event, because it would be rather dull, but I’m going to give some general impressions and then whatever specific memories come to mind – rather like I do when I tell about an event in person.

The conference was amazing. Every speaker had something wise and real and life-applicable to say. I filled pages of my notebook with notes.

The greatest thing I took away from the conference, I think, is that light is greater than darkness, hope is greater than despair, God is greater than the world and the flesh and the devil. There were women who had seen the reality of the most horrible things that happen in this world – yet they were overflowing with joy and absolute faith in the power of God and a passion to do whatever they could to make a difference, and believed without a shadow of doubt that God would work to make a real difference.

Always, before, when someone presented a cause or a need, I would not have the combination of “can”, “should”, and “want to”, that is needed to actually do something. I would hear about various causes, but simply become overwhelmed by how many different issues had real needs – I couldn’t possibly give enough money to make a difference to them all – I could hardly give enough money to make a difference to one. I felt inadequate to do anything that needed doing. If I couldn’t make a real difference, I had no drive to do anything. The few times that I’d given money to something, I never saw anything come from it… and I just felt like my money was going off into space. I didn’t regret the giving, but I didn’t have much desire to give to other things, especially when I had so little to start out with. And I felt that whatever I did, and really, whatever anyone else did, the world was so full of awfulness that we were never really going to get anywhere. Even if I was pulled by a certain cause, the “what can I do” never seemed to amount to anything more than “send money”, and I had no confidence that my sending money was actually going to make any difference. And I had heard people so often devalue “throwing money at a cause” and “praying without really doing anything” that my desire to do either of those things was very low. I felt powerless to do anything, and at the same time guilty for not doing anything.

This time was different. This was real people talking about real differences. There were things offered that we could do that didn’t require money. And, best of all, these were women who had seen the power of prayer and believed in it with their whole hearts. The theme was sisterhood – all women everywhere, focusing on our commonalities and not our differences; Christ’s daughters united to reach out to all the hurting women in the world, from our lonely neighbors to the women in Africa.

And because they believed it, believed with their whole hearts that we could and would make a real difference – because they were not some idealistic college students but women who had spent years among horrors – because they were lit up with fire and passion and joy – I believed it too. And am believing it now. So watch out, world…

The evening of the first day, Eleanor gave us grand news – a friend of hers had reserved a box, but the friends who were supposed to share it with her hadn’t been able to come, and she was inviting us to sit in it! So we got to sit in the box for the rest of the conference, quite close to the stage, and not crowded, and not having to worry about finding seats, and not being climbed over or climbing over other people… it was extremely nice. I felt like rich people – our own box in the Royal Albert Hall!

For lunch we ate sandwiches from the café, sitting on the steps of the Albert Monument. It was rather nice – all the other women all around on the steps and in the grass, like a giant picnic.

The first day I really wanted to go to the extra session that Dr. Robi was doing on anxiety and depression, so we didn’t have as much time for supper and had to have sandwiches again. But the session was really really good and I was very glad that I went as it gave me some good tools for dealing with panic attacks.

The next night the extra session was on parenting, so we didn’t go to it, so we got to walk to Wagamama, which is a Japanese restaurant. It’s on the second floor of a building up a lot of steps. Jan said we’d have taken the elevator if she’d realized how many steps there were.

Wagamama was bright, and the seating was rows of tables and benches, like a school cafeteria. It was full of Colour people and very loud, but cheerful. The food was very excellent. I had noodles with chicken and mushrooms and peppers and shrimp and shallots. I like shallots a lot. I wonder if my siblings would like them.

What else shall I say about my days at Colour? Well, the morning of the second day, the hotel called to say that I had to move out of my room because a double room had been booked and the room I was in was a family room and they needed it for someone else, in reply to which Jan told them that they had put us in that room knowing we needed three nights, we were at a conference and wouldn’t be back until nine at night, and they would have to solve their problem themselves. Fortunately Jack didn’t have any trouble getting the keys re-activated and I didn’t have to move, which was a great relief because my stuff was all over the room and I really didn’t want Jack to have to pack it up and move it.

Did you know that all UK hotel rooms are equipped with a tea kettle and stuff for making tea and instant coffee? It’s very nice.


Shan said...

Sounds like an awesome conference!

It was great to see you yesterday. :)

Jen G said...

So glad you were able to attend the conference and be inspired! There are lots of opportunities in GR for you to invest in - and by that I mean of yourself and not the never-present money. WAR's boutique always needs volunteers, the PRC has a bazillion things for volunteers (and I happen to know someone who could get you connected there - wink), our more inner-city schools are aching for volunteers b/c their parents are absent or uninvolved, adoption/foster agencies need volunteer office help... If you have an interest/passion, I guarantee there's an organization & opportunity here at home hungry for your help.

Your postcard was so lovely, BTW. I have it on the fridge for us all to admire. Someday.