Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lent 2. Evangelical Anglicansim: New Wine Wimmin's Day

New Wine is a curious Evangelical sect movement within the church of England. And last Saturday was their "Blaze" Women's day at the fantastic Harrogate International Center.  I am so delighted that such a building exists, in Harrogate, Yorkshire of all places. Unfortunately, with seating of around 2000 in its main auditorium, it is probably too small for a big geoscience conference and too big for the more specialised workshops.

Anyway, back to the main event. It was a bit different from a normal church service, mostly in that it was longer and the congregation much larger (at 1200). First there was a lot of singing, and my legs got tired after so much swimming the day before. Then there was a talk by a worthy woman. Then lunch, more singing, a movie showing an astounding venture among the homeless in Halifax followed by an interview with the leaders of the venture, another talk by another worthy woman and then "ministry". It all started at 10am and finished at 3pm. 

I like modest amounts of pop-music worship, although inane words (not tooooo bad on this occasion) and the overuse of the guitar is as wearing and the overuse of the church organ. At least there was a female singer. Male singers plus guitars tend to turn to auditory mud. The first talk was about getting out of one's comfort zone, and hitting bottom, before being able to rebuild a new you who soars to great heights. This is the plot of Fight Club, which is one of my favourite films, and I'm not sure that the talk added much new insight to the theme, except of course, at Blaze it was God who was helping us rebuild, which is not necessarily the case in Fight Club. The second speaker's talk was about how we should keep God close when we are in trouble. Her hope was that our behaviour in our big life troubles would be like a God-beacon to the un-Christian (they are Evangelicals, remember!). Still, the keeping God close part is a reasonable sentiment, although she didn't give us any practical advice as to how to achieve it. Both speakers were quite big on Twitterish soundbites, Eg. "faith precedes the miraculous", "do things you know you are not capable of", "not perfection, but authenticity", "go through, help through". A symptom of the size of the event  was that it was kind of performance-Christianity. The speakers didn't share anything of themselves, other than to say what super crazy and amazing lives they had had (both A-type personalities, I think!), so I'm not sure about the authenticity. I've found smaller events are really more powerful, where you are physically close to the speaker, and can talk to them afterwards. Having said that, my companions all said they had been very moved by some of the speakers in previous years, so it may vary from year to year. The venture among the homeless was quite amazing. They have a food bank and are also helping people to sort out their lives a bit while also holding a worship service each Saturday, which is well attended and resulting in baptising people in droves. James would probably say they are preying on the weak, but it did look rather like they were offering considerable support to people who had no one else stable in their lives to support them. 

Then there is the "ministry". I'm very ambivalent about this. I think people being given the option to come forward to be prayed for is great. But I object strongly when it turns round and it's coming from the stage - e.g.  where someone on stage starts to pretend that they have some insight into what someone else in the 1000 strong crowd below them is going through. Simple statistics tells you these sorts of things are just made up crap/ astrology/ witchcraft. I've experienced worse, and I just went out and got a nice cup of Earl Grey tea at this point.

As often happens with Evangelism movements, I think New Wine probably comes with an unpleasant level of intolerance. There was only mild allusion to this; some comments which suggested depression was a decision, and that the world out there was the work of the evil one. This isn't a world view that makes any sense to me. In fact I'm so sick of the "them and us" mentality that I've given up  saying "them" for 2015. We are all "us" together, humans on Earth!

The best parts for me were the travel and break times. I went in a group of 10, who go to or are friends of people who go to St Alkelda's Anglican church in Giggleswick. It was great at last to have a chance to get to know some people from the congregation a little bit better. I'd do it again just for that. I met one very interesting person, who is a Methodist but attends The Christian Fellowship as well as St Alkelda's. She was able to tell me something about all the other churches in Settle, apart from the Quakers, so as a result of her encouragement, I feel considerably more prepared for the rest of the Lenten journey!!

The most astonishing thing of the day, was the Energy Performance Certificate for Hall D in the HIC! Wow!!!

This is the more traditional style of Harrogate, over the road from the HIC; these houses probably have EPC ratings more in the F and G zones:

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