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Strength in Weakness

Countless people can tell of lives changed by the experience of a holiday, retreat or conference at one of the many Christian conference centres in Britain or beyond. Listening to their stories one will hear tell of warm welcome, great food, generous hospitality, beautiful locations, and loving and caring staff. One will also hear mention of profound, meaningful worship - but less often!

Yet, look beneath the surface of many of those places, and one will find "hotels" managed by Christians, often priests, with little relevant experience, staff who are predominately young people who have recently left school and lack much, if any, experience of working life. Some of the staff will have come from abroad encountering language and cultural barriers. Worship will often be led, and the scriptures be opened up, by people who do not have and could not obtain the qualifications and authority for those ministries in the denominational churches. In commercial, or church terms, these centres would not be expected to survive for long, but many of them have a history which goes back 40 or 50 years.

They succeed, not from strength because they have great resources of money, purpose-built houses, highly skilled, and experienced staff, but from the opposite, weakness and brokenness.

Listen carefully to the stories of the staff and you are likely to hear them speak of failing at school or dropping out of college. The adults will frequently be people who did not fit into the world of business and commerce or who are looking for a more vocational life. From all ages, you will hear talk of receiving much confidence-building affirmation and support in community, where in previous settings they met criticism. One will hear tell of a sense of 'being called' to the place and the work, which is itself empowering. And hidden away, stuck on the inside of cupboard doors, one will find small cards of instructions on 'how to cook rock buns', 'load and start the washing machines' or the route to lead a walk over the surrounding hills. Knowledge, information and experience is openly available to all.

And thus does strength come from apparent weakness, and success from the ingredients for failure.

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