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ss nucleus - winter 1994,  Word Alive - an Insider's View

Word Alive - an Insider's View

'Why yes, I'll be glad to move to the front.'
'Please could you tell me where I can put this waste paper, I didn't want to leave it on the floor.'
'All stewards can have the day off.'

Siiiiiggghhhh, now I know I'm dreaming. Oh well, can't complain, I've had at least three and a half minutes sleep tonight, mustn't be greedy now.

The dullness streamed through the windows as only happens at Skegness, the site of this year's Word Alive and it was time to arise. Hi, I'm a steward, resplendent in bright yellow tabard and sporting the latest stewards' fashion of paired black bags under the eyes and a fixed grin, the latter being a semi-permanent feature caused by greeting one and a half thousand people several times a day for the last three days. As the often seen placard goes 'You don't need to be cerebrally challenged to work here, but it helps'. But I'm not here to tell you of my woes, no I'm taking this opportunity to tell you of all the wonderful things that occurred at this Easter's Word Alive and that await you at next Easter's event (actually, in the interest of honesty and openness I'm also doing it to avoid revising for my imminent exams but don't tell anyone).

The whole point of Word Alive is that it is aimed at students. Whilst there are regular Spring Harvest type meetings that all and sundry can attend, there is also a specific student track. I hasten to add that this does not imply that the material is dead basic and cliched but rather that the presentation and issues are more appropriate to the 'youth cultural phenomenon' as I believe the buzz-phrase goes. And I also don't mean golden oldies trying to pass for hip and trendies! The word 'student' in this case is also (unusually) associated with the words 'fantastically subsidised prices'. And that's not just a quote from the brochure!

As the name of the week might suggest the main aim is to increase the knowledge and therefore application of God's Word to our lives and also to equip and encourage us to get to grips with it ourselves (something I must confess to being embarrassingly poor at myself). These two aims were met in a variety of ways.

The morning meetings were Bible readings. There were two different ones, a chronological Bible overview with Richard Coekin, followed by a thematic overview with Colin Sinclair. Call me easily impressed if you will but I would just like to point out that Colin Sinclair has read the Bible, cover to cover, in four days. Now there's a challenge!

In the afternoon there were numerous seminars to choose from dealing with the usual range of studenty topics - 'How to boil an egg' and a very popular one entitled '101 uses for a large sheet of clingfilm' as well as some more exotic ones such as 'Framing a Christian mind', 'What does it mean to be human?' and 'Spiritual gifts'.

In the evenings there were celebrations in the Gaiety Theatre which was often filled to capacity (1800) providing a totally overwhelming experience and finally the 'After Hours' events ranging from fantastical multi-media extravaganzas to live music from well known bands such as 'Eden's Burning' and 'Phil & John'.

If you really wanted to overload your spiritual neurones then in addition to all that you had the 'normal' track events, seminars, workshops, even a school of Advanced Learning, all running throughout the day. Free time? As much or as little as you like. Food availability? Not quite as permanent or varied as your average New York boulevard but pretty close. Leisure facilities? Sorry, too many to count. Sleep? You must be joking!

I suppose the great strength of Word Alive lies in this immense flexibility of choice that it presents; the worship varied from fairly formal to pretty wild, the morning seminars were graded as to style and depth by analogy with the morning papers so you could choose from 'The Mail' to 'The Times' and all stages in between, the seminars covered such a vast assortment of topics that to provide a couple of examples within the phrase 'ranged from ... to...' would be a completely nonsensical and misleading way to go about it. It's akin to entering the icecream parlour of your dreams with 324 different flavours to choose from, but, delving deep into your pockets, you discover only enough precious pennies for two flavours. It's like the recent mission to observe the result of comet impact into Jupiter where a few days of data gathering leads to years of gradual unfolding and spectacular results. This is the Word Alive problem, not boredom, or cost, or cliche but sooooooo many brilliant, fascinating, mind-boggling, life-changing, faith-building seminars and yet to be limited to a mere 3 or 4 a day at most. Do you follow a whole course of four sessions throughout the week or dip into as many pies as possible? Do you go for one that offers to answer questions you've always had or the one that touches on whole new areas you've never even considered before? Do you choose the big names that you're familiar with or the style you're comfortable with or the topics you can most relate to? It's the biggest drawback of the whole event, trying to make these decisions, so much so that you can even attend a seminar in the first few days on 'How to survive at Word Alive' that deals with exactly these issues. When was the last time you had that problem?

Now we come to the audience participation bit, I'm certainly not writing this for my benefit, nor even for the sake of the nucleus editorial team. Word Alive is what it is because Christians from all sorts of backgrounds can attend and all benefit. And what I am trying to achieve, quite unashamedly, is to persuade those of you who are geographically capable of attending Word Alive to do so!

I am convinced that it is such an amazingly wholesome event that it will benefit, in one way or another, anyone who goes with a positive attitude and a desire to learn; whether from the teaching or from worshipping with 2000 other Christians or from the fellowship of old and new friends. All these incredible experiences add up to what can only be described as relativity in action, you could actually watch the minutes and hours screaming past at warp factor 12, if only you had the time! So consider this a personal yet forceful invitation to next year's event and I will expect you ALL to attend! With a cost (ex-transport, ex-food) of roughly £30 (that's less than a ball ticket) for the 6 days with all the teaching, discussion and entertainment etc etc it's a mega-bargain. Actually I hear the cost is increasing slightly but by how much I'm not sure, they stoned the poor lass (Elaine Duncan) who gave out the message so I never quite heard the last bit.

You can get plenty of info and application forms from: Spring Harvest, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, E Sussex TN22 1QL.

Lastly, if you're interested in stewarding, the plus points are free accommodation and one square meal a day, £24 for food (or whatever) in Butlins vouchers, and £25 towards transport costs. Minus points, hard work, some sleep, little choice of venue (or maybe this is a plus point) but don't worry, God can get you where he wants you, and little time to yourself. Might sound dismal but I've done it twice and I'll do it at every opportunity because it's great. Further info from the above address.

Maybe I'll see you there. And if I'm wearing a tabard and I ask you to move to the front, please comply.

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