Wednesday, 5 December 2007

A Tribute to Relay

This morning has been a tearful one for me, as it's the morning that some of my favourite ex-colleagues head off for Relay 1 - the first conference of the year for UCCF Relay Workers. I am tearful because I am not exaggerating to say that the Relay conferences (which I have done 3.5 times over) have been some of the best weeks of my life. As far as I'm concerned the Relay programme just gets it right. It is so soaked in grace that it's dripping it all over the floor and there is no greater foundation for, well, anything.

Grace means that the nervous ones on trains and in cars right now will learn that they have every right to be there even though they are all too aware of their inadequacies and failings. Grace means that the cocky ones on their way there will learn that they have no right to be there despite their achievements and talents, but that they're welcome anyway because it's God that's going to be doing the work. Grace means that each of these things are equally true the other way around too. Grace is that wonderful leveller and I so wish I could be there for a 4th time to watch it doing its work.

At my first Relay 1, I was in the first camp. That first conference was the first time I ever remember feeling accepted as I was, and seeing that acceptance rooted in the unchangeable truths of the gospel. It was the first time I really realised that I did have something to offer, and that God had given me gifts that were usable and relevant. That conference was the first time I heard the parable of the sower taught, and that teaching was what got me through years of disappointments in the FE ministry. It was a constant (thought sometimes quiet) reprieve, whispering "Just sow, and sow, and sow, and sow, and sow, and sow....."
As I've repeated the conferences from the other side, it's Relay more than anything else that has taught me again and again that Jesus is enough, Jesus is worth it, Jesus is all I need, Jesus is all there is. I remember making notes in a talk at my last Relay 1, thinking "THIS is what I'm doing wrong! This is the key to the Christian life!" and then realising that what was being taught once again was that old chestnut, grace. There really is nothing new to learn, and nothing else needed.
I am going to miss singing songs to God with a room full of people who really, really mean it. I am going to miss singing those songs around a bonfire in the dark with people who really, really mean it. I am going to miss getting deep into rich books like Ephesians, Colossians, Isaiah and Zephaniah in ways that I've never enjoyed so richly anywhere else. I am going to miss that feeling of hard-heartedness, cynicism and failure being washed away by truth. I am going to miss waking up each morning with my mates. I am going to miss baring my soul to the girls and seeing it change and free some of them. I am going to miss caring for my fellowship group and watching it grow and change from conference to conference. I am going to miss the staff meetings, mixing hilarious banter with real love and concern for the Relays and each other. I am going to miss the 'fun nights', the content of which I can't reveal on here in case future or present Relays read and have their surprises spoilt. I am going to miss crying almost the whole way through Relay 3 each year as I hear testimony after testimony of God holding on to Relay after Relay, even through pain and grief, but often through real joy and change. I am going to miss the secret Relay rituals. I am going to miss having best friends as colleagues. I miss it.

The word 'privilege' has become a cliche when describing ministry, but there is no other word to describe what it has been to be involved in something like Relay. It has been genuinely life changing, sanctifying and joy filling, and it has glorified Jesus in my life more than any other gift he has given me.

It's hard to see, this morning, what life will look like without Relay. I can remember writing a similarly gushing post about Anna moving out a year and a half or so ago, which was equally accompanied by sodden tissues and snot. It took a long time to learn to enjoy the change that that brought. As I'm in two jobs without colleagues, that don't quite make ends meet and don't really get me out of the flat much at the moment, I think it's going to be a long time before I enjoy the gap that's left from Relay. But there was a kind of mantra that we learnt at Relay conferences, and that is not going to expire.

God is still God, and the gospel is still true.

1 comment:

OddBabble said...

i smiled a lot as I read this post. Hurray for Relay and all we've learned through it. Keep on sowing.

the pic at the top is reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel creation of man... interesting!

By Andy, at Sun Sep 02, 04:57:00 AM 2007

Your second paragraph puts into words how things are brilliantly. Praise God for his amazing grace!

By peterdray, at Mon Sep 03, 09:29:00 AM 2007


By Alison Young, at Tue Sep 04, 01:19:00 PM 2007

you've wasted a whole year of your life on something that is obviously false. Congrats.

By Anonymous, at Wed Sep 26, 10:05:00 PM 2007

That anonymous is a barrel of laughs isn't he?
I just wanted you to know that I come back and read this post when I feel sad.

By Little Mo, at Fri Sep 28, 07:14:00 PM 2007

Found you via zoomtard...

I made my first Relay One journey the day you wrote this.

Thank you to you and all that went before and relinquished their space on the team for people like me to experience Relay... xx

By Rachel's Small Corner, at Sun Sep 30, 09:49:00 PM 2007

just read this again - thanks to Mo's backtrack. :o) Thank God for His work in us - I'd happily 'waste' the whole of my life on Him. Mr/Ms Anonymous above is sadly wrong and I hope they live to realise it.

Today I NEEDED the reminder of grace and thankful that it came through your blog.

By Andy, at Tue Aug 26, 11:12:00 AM 2008

When u wrote this I was one of those Relay workers believeing that I wasnt good enough to be going there. Sat in a car with two others who appeared much more worthy I was petrified about what lay ahead. Today as Relay 08-09 begins I feel much the same as u did writing this post. I am aware that Relay is well and truely over now new people take on the race. I miss so much of what Relay brought to my life but as ure post ends I must remember that those things were good because of a good God. I need to worship him not Relay itself! Praise him for all the wonderful things and the fact that all the things we learnt are still totally true!

By Rachie's Ramblings, at Tue Aug 26, 11:32:00 AM 2008

Winner! I'm going for the final days and will look forward to my cheeky visit.

By adomas, at Thu Aug 28, 06:00:00 PM 2008