Sorry to have kept you waiting for my write-up of the ECG Event at Easter. It has taken until now to be able to use my right hand without pain after the bad fall I had in the rain in Llandudno. So I hope you will find it's worth the wait:-
Easter People was finished. I had never heard of NXT Ministries until ECG came on the scene and what was ECG anyway? It seemed a stupid title! I knew Youth for Christ and I’d heard and read about Hope ’08 – but, with input from all of these, would this new event even hold a candle to our beloved Easter People which had been run by Share Jesus International? These were the doubts in my mind as I prepared to travel to Llandudno to act as a steward for this new event.
However, we’d been told that there would be similar in-depth Bible studies to that provided by Easter People, with the renowned Clive and Ruth Calver as the main speakers, and that the main focus would be the ‘lost generation’ (the 20s to 40s). Even more reassuring was the fact that my friends from MET (Methodist Evangelicals Together) would be there, showing that they had faith in the new venture, and they were backing it financially.
So I set off on Easter Tuesday morning on a 6.10am train to Birmingham International rail station where I was met by another volunteer steward to drive to Llandudno – a very scenic journey through Wales, which included breakfast at the popular restaurant at the Horseshoe Pass. A sudden snowstorm painted the stunning landscape pure white just before our arrival there – absolutely wonderful!
In Llandudno there was the stewards’ briefing that included a tour of the new Conference Centre, Venue Cymru, so that we could direct others easily to the various events on site. The first thing we were told, however, was that, being in Wales, we should be aware that if someone shouted something that sounded like ‘daniel squirrel’ all the Welsh speakers would make a hasty exit - because it meant ‘Fire!’ Then we were told how to make a ‘horizontal evacuation’ of the building. My private sense of humour played tricks with that word ‘horizontal’!
I have always enjoyed welcoming people to Easter People and it was the same at ECG, but I was amazed at the number of folk who were so pleased to see me, some flinging their arms round me with joy and one lady saying ‘As we drove here, I was wondering if we would see you again!’ During the week I met a girl who said she had belonged to our youth group ‘Squash’; a lady who said she had belonged to my son’s choir (the Ryton Chorale) in Worksop until she began candidating for the Methodist ministry and could no longer go on Monday evenings; a young man who said my son had taught his young brother the ‘cello in Nottinghamshire; and another young man who was a steward at one of Will Grady’s churches. (I’d met Will at a UK Methodist bloggers’ meeting in January.) So there are many joys in stewarding, though it limits the number of sessions you can attend. We are told that we shall need twice as many stewards next year, so please consider whether you can be a volunteer!
However, I did get to a good number of the morning Bible Studies, whose themes were Jesus the Son of God, Jesus the social activist, Jesus the suffering servant and Jesus the mentor. It was good to witness the application of the Bible studies to our everyday lives in line with ECG (Equipping, Calling, Going). I was also glad to be at the main celebration event each evening led by the impressive worship band Yfriday (known world-wide) and with a variety of speakers on Jesus the Friend, Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Evangelist, Jesus the Risen One, Jesus the Radical and Jesus the Returning Hero. Large numbers of people responded to the call each day – a different call each time, according to the chosen theme, aiming to envision and enable radical mission and discipleship. For instance, I was most impressed when Gavin Calver (Youth for Christ Director of Church & Schools resources) summed up on Saturday by saying ‘I used to think that revival would come through our young people but now I believe it will also come from older people mentoring young people’. – after so many older people had stood to indicate their willingness to be a mentor.
In addition to these main events there was a very full programme, with something to suit every age group. The morning seminars, equipping people for ministry and growth were on Leadership, Lifestyle, Vocation (which, surprisingly, included one session on ‘Called to make money’!), and Church were so popular that each day we had to turn people away and refer them to the repeat sessions in the afternoon. There was all age worship each morning, a Kidz Zone for (0-4s, 5-6s, and 7-10s) and an evening children’s Praise Party run by Big Ministries and a Youth Programme for 11-14s and 15-18s.
In the afternoon, there was a choice of Family Film Fun, a Masterclass (on things like Songwriting, Public Speaking, and How to use Comedy), Signs of Hope sessions with the Fresh Expressions Team, Sports for all ages and fitness levels, the ECG-run Café Revival in the town centre, and social action projects like restoring a community centre, painting a church hall, and hosting a skate park and a mission bus. There was also much interest in the Prayer Path that occupied four rooms on the first floor, with interactive stations and different elements added each day to help us think more about Jesus’ character.
Fringe, late night events included a ‘Late Night Laughter Lounge’ at a local hotel, dramatic productions by the Lacey Theatre Company and the Inside Out Theatre group, Latin dance lessons by a professional salsa teacher, a Disco night, and each night there was a late night alternative Bible study in the Centre’s Café Bar (led on the Saturday by our President, Dr Martyn Atkins).
Before we left 480 people had booked and paid for next year’s ECG Event which will again be held in Llandudno from 14th to 19th April 2009, with Martyn Atkins (who will then be the Secretary of the Methodist Conference and the chief spokesman for the Methodist Church) as the main speaker for the Bible Study sessions. So 2008 had been a very encouraging start for ECG, with its aim of 'inspiring a prophetic church to build a better world'.