'Drawn deeper into the ways of the Lord'
A report from the annual Fresh Streams conference, which was an online gathering this year called Back to the Future. By Doug Waller
‘Back to the Future,’ that has been the overarching theme of the Fresh Streams Conference 2021. It was an inspired theme, because not unlike some of the technological predictions of the eponymous sci-fi film series, this was a conference that has had to fully embrace digital solutions in order to take place in unprecedented times. A huge well done and thank you needs to be expressed to all of those who have had to master the intricate arts of Zoom and navigate the mysteries of breakout rooms, to bring us into connection with one another.
The strapline of the Fresh Streams movement is ‘deeper in, further out,’ and with over 750 delegates signed up for the three days, this conference has certainly reached out to those who would not typically have been able to attend the annual in-person gathering. One of the highlights of my own experience this year has been in sharing some of the sessions with my wife Charlie, who would ordinarily be at home looking after our three children.
I believe that what has been truly timely, is that just as the scope and reach of this conference has become wider, at the beginning of a new year, we have been drawn deeper into the ways of the Lord as churches and as church leaders.
The Bible passage that shaped the three days, came from Jeremiah 6:16:
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls."
It was with this passage in mind that numerous contributors and session leaders took their lead and discussion was able to emanate.
Each day of the conference was magnificently opened with morning devotions with Ruth Rice, who shared with us some of the daily rhythms of Renew Wellbeing, and drew out some valuable insights on both the Jeremiah passage, and also Isaiah 40. How important it is that during these difficult days of Covid-19 (I finally mentioned it), that we return to the rhythms and disciplines that draw us nearer to God.
I personally came to really appreciate Bev Murrill’s daily Bible teaching, as she opened God’s word for us over the course of the three days. There was great challenge in how well she knew the scriptures, but also in how she shared from her experiences of church leadership, in order to challenge us in how we might move forwards as churches and as leaders in a post-Covid 19 world.
Using the virtual platform that was afforded us, we were able to meet and network with new friends and old, throughout the course of the conference. It was also incredibly encouraging to share in regional Zoom meetings, and to receive prayer from one another within that forum.
Shared conversations facilitated through Zoom enabled individuals to explore a range of different topics and interests that usually would have been within the confines of a seminar room.
Each day was then brilliantly closed out with an evening celebration, where we heard inspiring and challenging talks from Alan Hirsch, Amie Buhari and Fresh Streams' very own Andy Glover. They spoke such wisdom and insight into our current situation and have left us with much to prayerfully consider for the days ahead.
I had never been to a Fresh Streams gathering before, and while this year’s conference was different, it has certainly whetted my appetite. I look forward with great excitement to the day when I can meet in-person, so many of the wonderful Christian men and women that I encountered over the three days. Hopefully, that will not be too far off into the future!
The Revd Doug Waller, Lead Pastor, Woodbridge Quay Church