It is really hard to know where to start. Could it be that night in a Premier Inn over a year ago when the words Hebraic Church came to me as part of a divine download? Or the time since then, wrestling with this concept despite the opposition and misunderstandings, trying to figure out what these words meant? Or was it when 100+ folk experienced them in action in a tiny corner of England last week?
My greatest fear in the weeks before was the weather, we really needed the Wednesday, Hebraic Church day, to be rain free, as most activities were to be outside. God truly blessed us with beautiful weather with wonderful sunshine throughout Wednesday, in fact an open heaven in all senses of the words.
They came from far and wide, from Dublin to Aberdeen, South Devon to the Kent coast. A (mostly) grey army of intrepid souls, particularly the 40% who, being Foundations newbies, weren’t quite sure what they were letting themselves in for. To be honest, none of us were really sure.
It kicked off on Monday with a brief introduction and the unique worship experience facilitated by the immensely gifted Jo Jones. On the Tuesday I gave a summary of what Hebraic Church actually meant (to me), launching my new book with the rather catchy title of … Hebraic Church (available – in my dreams at least - at all good bookshops etc.). Then the morning was taken over by David Andrew with a powerful message on the cross and oneness with Christ and was so on fire that we just let him continue until lunchtime. After lunch we were captivated by the energy and directness of our visiting speaker, Andrea Williams, from Christian Concern, who gave us a depressing but necessary “State of the Nation” address, shocking us with many grim realities, particularly during the Q&A, facilitated by David Jones. Then we had our workshops, to continue all week. Jo brought together and started training a choir and Ginnie White and Rosie Smith commenced the dance workshop on the patio, which was exhausting enough just to watch, let alone take part in! Squirreled away in a small room, accessible only by a few willing souls brave enough to circumvent the building site that blocked it off, was the drama workshop, run by my son Jony and his mate Chris Poch, the Artless Theatre Trust. At one point I ventured in only to see my wife Monica wriggling in a dentist chair while two strange women were dancing around her and then everyone ducked and she went into a dream sequence (just a normal day in the Maltz household, actually!)
Hebraic Church day started at 4am for me! Couldn’t sleep, so I wandered around the grounds at dawn, setting up signs, preparing rooms and venturing down to the lake, looking for some still waters. The day was intended to be a personal journey for all. After a fantastic seminar from Jo on the meaning of worship the delegates were let loose, allowed to roam freely. So what could they do? They could take part in the day long Bible reading marathon, or they could preach or give testimonies at the outside pulpit, or they could go on one of two prayer walks down to ‘still waters’, or they could join Steve Hamblin in the lounge at the unexpectedly popular yeshiva, with 30 (very) odd folk grappling with the issue of the rapture (Steve was either mad or very brave!) Or they could spend time in the quiet zone, dealing with their sins at our watery confessional or taking communion by themselves or with others, or they could take part in the extensive craft workshops run by the resourceful Deb Smith and Monica. Or they could add a picture, painting, a scripture or words to the unravelling timeline created by Jean Fletcher. Or they could just worship with Jo around the piano. Or they could play cricket and tennis (as did my boys Phil & Jony and their posse).
The day was an experiment to break free from the Greek style of imposed services, led from the front. It allowed everyone to connect with each other and with God and find out more about themselves in the process. And, boy, was it a success! There is just not the space here to list out the testimonies of people being set free, of new giftings, of new beginnings. You will get an idea of these when we release our short video or if you download some of our testimony audios.
In the evening the ‘craziness’ continued, with a musical prelude of Chris Hill reading a paraphrased Psalm 23 to the stirring accompaniment of two flutes (Kate and Jo). Then Jo split the congregation into two so that they faced each other and the rest of the evening’s worship was led by them with a continuous medley of old hymns sung acapella, that would have gone on all night if we hadn’t lured them away with the promises of a nice cup of tea (shout out here to the selfless work of Paul & Deb Smith, our tea ladies).
Thursday began with a stirring message from Chris Hill, encouraging us to get out there and start doing the stuff! Following this, Chris, David and I were in a panel led by the ever-smooth Peter Sammons, when we discussed the need to get good resources out there with a plea for folk to get involved and work with us to create a network throughout the country (more of this in a further article). In the afternoon we had our second guest speaker, Alex Jacob, from CMJ, speaking on the Church and the Jews, with an introduction to ‘enlargement theology’. Then, by popular demand, we put on an extra seminar at the persistent insistence of Peter Smith, with the modest title of ‘Peter Smith vs. the EU’. Peter is an EU ‘insider’ with many insights and the packed house appreciated his unique delivery apparently. I was elsewhere, dealing with a growing crisis ….
Norovirus. Four people were inflicted on the Thursday, including Nancy, one of our team L. Thanks to intercession that evening these were the only four who missed any of the conference because of the NV, which was an incredible number as John, a retired GP delegate said that we could potentially have lost 90% of the group! (though we heard many fruity stories afterwards as the ‘Quinta Plague’ was introduced to quite a few parts of the country after the conference!)
On Thursday night Artless performed a well-received drama, also showing a short clip of ‘something they prepared earlier’ and then we had Danny performing a solo piece, ‘Elijah’. Yes, I had to mention Danny, the glue who joined up so many of the bits at the conference. Daniel – singer, performer, announcer, MC, preacher and servant (first on the scene when the NV first manifested itself!) and the one who rescued the tech team when a piece of music refused to run, by firing up YouTube on his smartphone and connecting it up to the PA system! Danny is only 19 years old – what’s he going to be like when he grows up!!!???
The choir then gave us a remarkable virtuoso performance and we all retreated to the lounge with smiles on our faces …
Friday was a sad day … because we were going to part company and it was like breaking apart a family that had experienced a whole lifetime in just four days (poetic license here, but please indulge me). I gave a rousing speech to rally the troops, then we had our Passover celebration. It was the fruits of Ginnie and Rosie’s dance workshops and what a spectacle it was, a victory dance, followed by a depiction of ‘bondage into freedom’, featuring John Birch, our sprightly octogenarian as Moses, who had never danced before this day. This also featured the choir and was so moving, particularly when the whole congregation formed a line and moved through the ‘doorway into freedom’. We finished with a group photo and testimonies – this was when we realised what a precious time we all had together. Two words defined the conference, Family and Restoration. The latter was through a confirmed word from Ken Franks who innocently gave us all one of the greatest laughs of the conference when he spoke of the vision he had of ‘restoration of antiques’ to an audience of … (mostly) … antiques!
This was a fantastic experience for Monica and I, it was by far the best of all seven Foundation conferences. When we got home we already started to plan the next one! In fact, thanks to the unity and common purpose among the delegates, we are planning up to four regional Foundations conferences over the coming 12 months – in Devon, Essex and perhaps also in Scotland and the Milton Keynes area (helped by the three crazy ladies)
There are too many people to thank (apologies if I haven’t mentioned you by name already, though I must mention David Serle, who came a day earlier to help our Phil and Adam convert the sports hall into a conference room, even bringing a lot of his own hardware). The team was exceptional this year but, in true community fashion, so many delegates volunteered to help with the many tasks we had, such as Christine and Crystal to did the train pick-ups, but a special mention to Bryan Cox, who drove a sick lady (Norma) on Wednesday (with Monica and the wonderful Joyce) to an M6 service station to be picked by her son, only to be one of those struck down later in the week by the Quinta Plague.
WERE YOU AT FOUNDATIONS 7? DO YOU HAVE ANY TESTIMONIES, PHOTOS OR VIDEOS THAT WE CAN PUT ON AN F7 PAGE ON THE WEBSITE? IF SO, PLEASE EMAIL THEM TO US.
Foundations 8 will be on 3rd – 7th April 2017. First come, first served. ‘Hebraic Church’ is available for £10 from www.sppublishing.com