Vicar’s September letter

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Dear friends,

I have just been unpacking some books I bought when I was at Keswick Convention at the end of July. As you can imagine, I am trying to watch the pennies at the moment (for obvious reasons) and I had decided that I wouldn’t buy any books when I was there. I knew I would want to, but I do have a tendency to buy more books than I read, so I thought a little discipline was called for. There was nothing I needed, so I would not buy any!

I bought 21. Yes, twenty one. And 20 (twenty) Bibles. So, 41 books altogether. The Bibles were for a specific purpose (more about this next month) and will be used by all the Churches in the benefice in due course so they don’t count. Which leaves 21. So what does that tell you about me? No willpower? No discipline? Possibly! A passion for books? A passion for reading? A passion for learning? Possibly.

I think it says more about the effect that going to a good Christian conference has on me. Just in case you don’t know much about the Keswick Convention, I will explain a little. Keswick Convention has a long and rich history. It is the longest running Christian conference in this country by a long, long way. The first convention was held in 1875. That’s 136 years ago. It has run on an annual basis ever since (give or take two world wars). These statements from their website ( say something about what the Conference is all about.

Keswick Ministries is committed to the deepening of the spiritual life in individuals and church communities through the careful exposition and application of Scripture, seeking to:

  • encourage submission to the Lordship of Christ in personal and corporate living
  • encourage a dependency upon the indwelling and fullness of the Holy Spirit for life transformation and effective living
  • provoke a strong commitment to the breadth of evangelism and mission in the British Isles and worldwide
  • stimulate the discipling and training of people of all ages in godliness, service and sacrificial living
  • provide a practical demonstration of evangelical unity

So what actually happens there? Well there is a main speaker each week (Keswick Convention runs for three weeks each year) who gives a ‘Bible Reading’ each weekday morning. This is essentially a longish sermon, about 30 minutes, where a passage is read, studied and applied. The passages will follow a theme through the week. The main speaker in the week I was at Keswick was Chris Wright. He was excellent. There are also a variety of excellent speakers at a Sunday morning service and an evening meeting each day. These are similar to Church services with worship, prayers, a Bible reading, a talk/sermon, and, of course, notices about everything else going on. There is also a slot where different books are talked about and recommended – which was part of my problem! These ‘main’ meetings are held in a large marquee which holds 3,000 people and gets full! There are live relays to others sites around Keswick and overflow areas around the marquee. Have you ever worshipped or prayed with 3,000+ people – its quite an experience. Alongside these ‘main’ meetings there are a range of seminars, Bible Studies, discussions and workshops in a variety of locations around the town. These cater for a wide variety of tastes and interests. I went to a seminar series on ‘Building a Gospel Church’ which met in the cinema each morning. I also attended a Bible Study series on Isaiah’s Servant Songs in one of the Methodist Churches in the town. There are also lots and lots of stands, displays, shops, presentations and things to do and see. There is a full range of children’s and youth activities with over 1,000 children and young people catered for each week.

So why does all this make me want to buy books? Well, some of the specific mentions of books in the main meetings are so powerful that it is hard to resist and most if not all of the books I bought were on special offers; but the main reason is that I am always encouraged, always challenged and always inspired at such events. I am always changed in some way. Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind. (Look it up.)  If you have never been to a Christian Conference then I would encourage you to think about it. There are plenty to choose from – Spring Harvest, New Word Alive and New Wine are well known alternatives to Keswick. If you have been to other conferences but not to Keswick, then I would encourage you to think about going to Keswick. If you would prefer to go with a group rather than venturing out into the unknown on your own, I am thinking of going to Keswick again next year and it would be great if a group of us could go together. Towards the end of the year, or early next year, I will be talking about this some more and showing a short DVD of what Keswick is about.

If you are interested in this at all but are not too sure, then Keswick is a great choice. It is the only Christian Conference that you do not have to book for and for which there is no registration fee. (There is a collection  at the Sunday morning service and at each morning and evening meeting.) Also, the conference is not on a dedicated site some distance from the nearest town (as are Spring Harvest, New Word Alive, New Wine, etc) and Keswick is a beautiful spot in the North Lakes. It is therefore easy to go to whatever sessions you want, have time out when you want and go sightseeing or walking when you want. Accommodation is arranged independently – I camped this year, but many Keswick attendees rent cottages or stay in small tourist hotels or B&Bs. Plenty of options for all pockets and preferences.

Have a think about it and talk to me if you are even the slightest bit interested. If you decided to go, you might be encouraged, challenged and inspired. It might change your life. You might even decide to buy some books that you don’t really need.