HTB Focus: Encountering Jesus
Focus is the HTB annual church summer holiday and a chance for the HTB community to grow together and enjoy quality with teaching, worship, and fun activities. Our very own Citizen Church were there and Fr Mark Broadway, Margam Ministry Area, went along to find out what more. For Mark, Focus was all about encountering Jesus. He tells us more.
"The most fundamental question that you find yourself asking, will determine everything you do, and how you do it."
I was grateful to a Bristol Vicar for pointing this out to me last week at HTB's Summer Conference, Focus. The question that we take to God, and the answer that God gives by his Spirit through his word, will determine our priorities. For those of us who have been to lots of, and varied, Summer Conferences, Retreats, Pilgrimages, or Festivals over the years will have encountered many different questions being asked and answered.
For many in the HTB / Focus network, the question that is asked - and answered - is simply "how do we win this nation for Jesus?" Asking this particular question, and pursuing its solution to the end, means not asking other good questions that we may have wished to ask of ourselves and our churches. It has led HTB Network Churches such as Citizen in Cardiff, to focus with incredible passion on very specific vision statements, such as "the re-evangelisation of the nation, the revitalisation of the Church, and the transformation of society."
Surrendering to this question means a great deal of sacrifice. If we sincerely ask "how do we win this nation for Jesus?" then we cannot ask "what are my personal worship preferences?", nor can we ask "how do I keep a tight reign on what happens in Church?"
The great success of the HTB group has been its willingness to answer this question powerfully and successfully with a range of musical expressions, outreach tools, Discipleship materials, and social action projects. Focus, the Summer Conference, is one such answer.
What Happens When Church Goes on Holiday
The three-and-a-half day event centred on Big Top worship and talks which happen in the morning and evening. If you've not been to an event like this before, its hard to explain: several thousand (mostly young) people gathered together singing, praying, and listening to the Inner Voice of the Holy Spirit. This one service alone is not Church in the way I am used it. Nor perhaps does it try to be the fulness of Church as the 39 Articles puts it (see Article XIX), but it is a place where the Church gatherers as a body and has fun.
That having been said, I hasten to add that a diligent team are on-site, in the Chapel tent, ensuring the Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Compline, and Holy Communion are all celebrated daily - how many of our traditional churches would love to see that as part of their routine of devotion.
It is a place where the Church gatherers as a body and has fun.
There is also a range of talks and seminars available each day. To list just a few: "Spirit and Liturgy", "Engaging with Culture", "God's Purpose in Business", "Faith in Recovery" - and this is all before we think about the leisure activities also available, starting at 07.00 with early morning runs, a football tournament, speed-dating, and a cocktail bar.
Two things that blew me away
First, the commitment to the praise of the Sacred Name of Jesus. Early on, a speaker explained "Thats why He [the Holy Spirit] is here - to help us glorify the name of Jesus" - several of the songs we sang also carried this message, reminding us of verses such as Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Or Philippians 2:9 "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name". This was worked out in the fact that praise rose continually on camp, as 24 churches worked together in shifts providing 24 hour worship.
Second, I was stunned by the quality of the provision of Child friendly and age appropriate materials. Each morning, we were welcomed to a short period of All Age Worship, with drama and children's songs, and then twice every day my children found themselves in the brilliant, fully staffed and supervised Children's Groups - where they were treated to games, scavenger hunts, songs, and play.
I believe that people need to encounter the living Jesus, and that as they do, they will be transformed.
I am not a HTB vicar, and I didn't go with a HTB Church, but I have been inspired by what I encountered at Focus, and I believe encounter is the key that unlocks the burning question: "how do we win this nation for Jesus?"
I believe that people need to encounter the living Jesus, and that as they do, they will be transformed. In order to survive our Churches must facilitate this encounter at every level and in every aspect of what we do. We must work hard so that people encounter Jesus in our welcome, in our worship, in our word, and in our ways of prayer. This must mean not seeking to push or promote my personal favourite things, but only those things through which more and more people experience that encounter with the risen Jesus.
If they do - and I believe they will - I will ask them to come camp with me at Focus next year.
Expect a very warm and friendly welcome this and every Sunday at Citizen Church. Visit their website to find out more: CITIZEN CHURCH