I need to be careful with this. It feels delicate. I know I’m going to upset someone, though it’s not my intention. But let me put the question like this, ‘if the Advertising Standards Agency assessed the London Men’s Convention, would it have passed muster?’
I’m not so sure. In my view, what was provided on Saturday (though terrific) didn’t quite do what it said on the tin. Obviously I bear some responsibility for that. I’m on the organising committee. I’m not backward in making my views known in those meetings. It’s no one else’s fault. I’m criticising my own work. And that’s unusual for me because usually I try to defend it and justify it. But not this time.
Last Saturday was the final London Men’s Convention in its current form. But was it, really?
We’ve long accepted that the delegates don’t all come from London. Stephen Fletcher, the outgoing Christian Conventions Administrator who’s done a brilliant job, will have the figures. But many come from outside the M25. That doesn’t make them bad people. No really! But it does mean that the ‘London’ bit in the title defines the location and not the identity of those that come. And so it can’t be London specific. Living in London’s different to living in Leighton Buzzard. But we can’t address that if the clientele come from the regions.
It wasn’t very men’s either. I think both the talks and all the seminars could have been given to the Women’s Convention without substantive alteration to their content. That doesn’t make them wrong, or bad. But it doesn’t make them talks specifically for men. That’s a little harsh I know. Graham’s talk moved much more in the realm of the masculine than we may be familiar with, so perhaps that’s not fair. And to be fair to Vaughan’s talk, which was exceptionally good, I’m not sure I’d have wanted him to have changed anything anyway. We probably stitched the guys up with the talk topics we asked them to speak on. Resurrection isn’t gender specific after all. But this is a men’s convention. It’s a brilliant opportunity to address the issues that face us as Christian men living in (if we do) London. I’m not saying that we should have talks about our struggles with porn every year. But perhaps every other year. This is a chance for church pastors to bring their guys to an event where gifted speakers have given thought to how a topic should be addressed without any women in the room.
And I’m not sure it wasn’t very ‘convention’ either! It was more ‘convention’ than being in Westminster Chapel. Which simply felt like big church. But these past few years of having the early and late slots means that it feels less like the event it ought to be. It’s not always our fault. We struggle to get big venues. The Royal Albert Hall is hard to book. And I’m possible the only person alive who loves the ExCel. I’m certainly the only one on the committee! With a big venue we can fill it and pay for it. With a small venue we can fill it and just about pay for it but not everyone can come.
And so, what we gave people on Saturday was ‘The Home Counties Christian Meeting’. Don’t get me wrong. I thought it was a great day. The talks were really encouraging. I loved Graham’s and Vaughan’s for very different reasons. Danno’s was encouraging. Vaughan’s was reassuring. The seminars were stretching and challenging. I was hugely helped by Dan Strange’s talk on how the resurrection impacts my cultural engagement as a Christian. The music was uplifting, though I think I get more benefit than anyone because being on stage means that all the voices are coming towards me. And the leading was exceptional. Jamie’s. Not mine.
But this was the last one in its’ current form. We’re killing off what the LMC has become. And I think that’s right. At some point I’ll think about the legacy of the last twelve years. It’s been hugely significant in my Christian life and in eth life of our chruch. But it’s going to be re-launched in 2016. There’ll be a new committee with some new ideas. And I think it’ll be better for it. I love it. I just think it’s become a bit ordinary. But it may just be that the hassle of committee meetings, discussions and organisation has dimmed my enthusiasm. I don’t think so. I think the time has come for a resurrection. Something old gloriously transformed. Perhaps the choice of the theme wasn’t totally coincidental!