What a fabulous weekend! One hundred and fifty woman gathered by plane, train and car to the Four Pillars hotel in Cirencester.
We began with a welcome by the chocolate fountain,
before meeting up to receive the dramatic black and cerise gift bags in our conference suite. Sue Ainsworth had us all moving round the room, realising how much we had in common as well as our uniqueness. Then Sheila Bridge kicked off the theme in her own, ‘let me tell you a story’ style with – ‘Love God, Love Others’.
At ten pm the invitation went out and forty women were brave enough to return for a popcorn showing on the big screen of Love Actually, the movie. Many arrived in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, much to the amusement of the hotel staff! In the morning Julie Wilkins and Mary McLachlan woke us up with a beautiful half hour devotion giving us space and time to be at peace and meet with Jesus in our imaginary homes. At 9.30 the Maidstone worship band led us in our first worship session before Jenny Baker brought us a message that encouraged us to ask – Who am I, How am I , Where am I? We learnt the importance of not listening to an inner critic.
Seminars followed with Bekah Legg entertaining her group by talking about effective communication in our relationships and through social media. Sue Ainsworth, meanwhile, gave a confidence gym with much hilarity. Another lovely buffet meal was followed by two more seminars. Time For Marriage duo, Fiona and Andy Banes talked about marriage and relationships whilst Fiona Castle and Mandy Catto introduced current thinking about friendship evangelism, including a recommendation to use Bill Hybel’s “Walk Across the Room” material. The sun came out in the afternoon as people headed out for a walk round the lake or to the bubbles of the spa, steam room and sauna.
We gathered back for a lavish gala dinner, complete with candelabras and red heart decorations. Jenny Baker gave us much to think about with her ideas on evangelism learnt through her recent running group experiences. Then Searchlight Theatre Company took over and sped us through the book of Exodus, with much interaction, corny jokes and a few moments of truth. The star of the night was Anne , who bravely joined in the show.
Sunday morning brought Julia Crellin who led us to dispel the lies we sometimes hear and remember how much we are loved by God. “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.” A creative zone then appeared and ten tables were laid out with Easter crafts, cards, jars for planting, soaps, hand creams, reading group choices, website writing and twitter area and the Sunday papers. The worship band then opened up our voices as we worshipped together. Sue danced and mimed her way into our hearts when she showed us the importance of laughter. Sarah and Rhiannon led the final inspiration by reminding us of the reluctant leader Moses, who God used mightily then gave us a flood of practical ideas to take home and get connected with our neighbours and expand our circle of influence in the name of Jesus. As the worship rang out for the last time, there was a sense of reluctance to leave. But the call to get out there and show God’s love had been clear and we made our way back to the different corners of the UK.