New Wine 2012

A Retrospective Random Ramble

I had expectations about New Wine this year. I suspect that was unwise, given that God was involved, and he usually has better ideas than me about how my time should be spent. I was expecting to do a lot of worshipping, spend a lot of time hiding away with a book, and a bit of time sitting around the St. Tees campsite, not to mention Tony's Bar and Grill. I wasn't expecting to need ministry, nor to be ministering to others. Nor was I really (fool that I am) expecting God to speak clearly to me.

In some ways it was mildly disappointing - for one thing, until almost the last evening I found it very difficult to 'engage' - with both worship and teaching - it was as if I was blanketed in cotton wool. And the weather, whilst not disastrous, wasn't great. So the things I was expecting to enjoy, I didn't really. But there was good stuff too. Not least amongst the good was camping with the St. Tees family. I so rarely get time, amongst the busy-ness of church life, to get to know folk properly; to chat; share food and fun together. Amongst other things, drying up the Scammans' cutlery and crocks whilst Jon washed them gave me a chance for some chatter with him, which was great.

On Sunday night, Kenny Borthwick was preaching - I forget what about (told you I had trouble engaging!), but one thing stood out, which was about inter-generational stuff - about praying for the under-fives, and working with them. I have found Little Fishes a struggle this past term, and now I know why - I'd been allowing myself to try to 'do' Little Fishes like the rest of the team - concentrating on chatting to the parents. That doesn't work for me, but I couldn't work out what had gone wrong. Now God reminded me: conversations with adults are incidental for me in that setting, and a bonus if they happen - my ministry is primarily to the babies:

Matthew 19:13-14
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The early morning bible studies were good - led by our very own Jon and Helen Scamman (it seemed distinctly unfair somehow, that I had to sleep in a muddy field to hear my own vicar speak, but I always maintain that God has a very warped sense of humour, so that sort of thing is to be expected). 'Ordinary Heroes' was the theme. Aaron, Gideon, and other 'bit part' players. And that brings me on to other things God did.

Nao Parsons has been struggling lately, with stress, headaches, overwork, guidance, career, etc., and some of us have been praying for her regularly. Following one of the Scammans' studies (on Naomi!), I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to go forward for prayer on her behalf. God also gave me a scripture for her:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

After I (or she!) had been prayed for I returned to the church campsite. She and I sat under the 'tabernacle' and had a long talk and a pray. At the same time during the week, God was doing other things in her life so, by the end of the week, she seemed to be feeling pretty much like the person we know and love - she had no migraine, the strain had gone from her face, she said she felt ready to get on with life again, and she looked the part - relaxed and smiling. She has a fantastic smile - her face appears to shine, in a way that seems to me reminiscent of Moses coming down from the mountain after meeting God. HALLELUJAH!!

Just as well she was beginning to feel better, because, unbeknownst to either of us, God was about to use her to help me!

The next early morning bible study was about another 'ordinary hero', this time Martha - famous for being 'too busy' - but in this case most of the emphasis (or at least the emphasis of what I heard!) was on the illness, death, and raising of her brother, Lazarus. Jon was particularly eloquent in his description of the grief she must have felt at his death; her bewilderment and anger at the Lord not arriving in time to save Lazarus from the grave. This made me think of my own loss - Charlie, my firstborn son, who was stillborn, and the similar feelings of loss, bewilderment and anger at God for 'letting it happen' I'd experienced at the time. And, almost before I knew it, I was in tears - it was almost as if it had only just happened. Somehow I made my way back to the St. Tees campsite, but found myself unwilling to enter - I just couldn't face the well-meaning fuss.

By sheer 'Godincidence' Nao appeared from behind a tent just as I was wavering and feeling as though I needed to flee.

Was I all right?


Did I want company or to be left alone?

Company. So we set off walking. We spent I don't know how long, an hour maybe, some of the time just walking, with me weeping gently, some time with me pouring it all out, and some of the time with the wise Nao probing gently for more detail. It was very helpful. And very kind of her to take the time, particularly when she was only just coming out of her own dark tunnel. That morning, she was God's angel.

The long and short of it, over the next couple of days, was the re-realisation that this world, and our part in it, is only temporary; that suffering and separation are only for a season, and that, one day, I will be reunited with Charlie and we will praise God together for eternity:

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

So God did have plans for the week, but definitely not what I'd expected!

Linda and I attended a seminar together on extroverts and introverts in the church and, surprising as it seemed after 28 years of marriage, each learnt new things about how the other 'ticks'. For instance, introverts tend to listen silently, and expect others to do the same, whilst extroverts 'interrupt', by saying things while they're listening. This has been the source of many 'tiffs' over the years - either Linda accusing me of not listening because I wasn't saying anything, or me accusing Linda of not letting me finish speaking before butting in! Now we know why!

I attended several other seminars during the week, on church leadership and church growth, but we will swiftly draw a veil over those and move on - they were potentially useful, but fairly tedious!

By the Friday lunchtime, Ruth, Nao, Linda and myself were feeling very 'cooped up' by the whole 'New Wine thing', so we did like proper Anglicans and went to the pub! We had a restful lunch, and a long chat, and felt ready to face the rest of the event. A good thing happened during lunch too - a text from someone Nao has been working for, inviting her to apply for a more permanent job.

We attended one last worship session just before leaving on the Friday evening, and it was a stonker - at last I felt as though the clouds had lifted, I was free of all my burdens again, and properly able to enter into the Lord's presence and praise Him as he deserves. Better late than never, eh Lord?

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022