Getting EQUIPped

Sunday, 28 May, 2006

Yesterday was the EQUIP Women conference at Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour. For the first time ever, they ran a Morning and a Twilight session, with both groups doing the electives in between. I was going to Twilight. I caught the train into the city and waited for Little on the steps of the Town Hall. (NB: That's the front steps at ground level, not the ones that lead down the underground.) There were a bunch of young punk goths playing with a plastic soccer ball and I watched them while I knitted.

When Little turned up, neither of us was very hungry so we went for a stroll around Darling Harbour. It was overcast but thankfully not raining. I was wearing my Russian dictator coat (a hand-me-down from my stepmother and what a lovely hand-me-down it is too!) and my fluffy Russian hat. We ran into some guys I know who had volunteered to usher for EQUIP and I waved at them and we kept going. We circled the harbour one and a half times before feeling hungry enough to find a place to eat. After much menu-scanning, we decided on the Narita Japanese Bento Bar where we had Udon noodle soup and enjoyed the view from our table (that, I have to say, is one of the delights of eating at Darling Harbour—eating outdoors even though it's the middle of winter [because all the restaurants have these gas heaters] and enjoying the view).

We went into the convention centre because it was almost time for registration and, just like last year, we entered through the wrong door and had to wander around for a bit before we found the registration desk, and collected our name tag and booklets. It was so weird running into all these guys I knew at a women's convention (and they all looked very smart in their white shirts (or, in Duncan's case, off-white shirt) and black pants (with the exception of Guan who was there more in his MM capacity to do soundy things). And, of course, in a place where thousands of Sydney evangelicals gather, I kept running into lots of other people I knew—Wollongong people, Wollongong ECU people I used to be on staff with, old friends from UNSW, friends at Moore, church people, etc. I also saw Denise but didn't get the opportunity to go over and say hi.

We ran into Elsie fairly quickly, considering the number of people who were there. She was busy snapping photos of all the guys she knew who were ushering. We worked out that we were in the same elective together (“Sex in the City” with Di Warren) so we arranged to meet Little later and went off to the second floor.

Di Warren spoke very well as usual. She basically went through a systematic theology of sex, using Genesis 2 as her foundation. I thought it was very interesting that she said that we were created for intimacy and intimate relationships and therefore it's appropriate that single people should feel that great longing for the intimacy of marriage. But I wondered if she should have talked a little more about singleness this side of heaven. She tied things up very well in talking about Revelation 21-22 and heaven (where we will experience “Sex in the City” in true intimacy with the living God in the City of God). Overall I was very impressed that she managed to cover a lot of ground fairly thoroughly but still in an accessible way in such a short amount of time.

Afterwards, Elsie and I headed back downstairs and met Little. It was afternoon tea time and, as an improvement on last year, everyone was given a little snack box that contained a piece of fruit, a juice box and a muffin of some description. We were warned to maybe save some food for later because it was going to be a long afternoon. We sat on the floor in the lower room of the convention centre and I caught up with Sonja, a friend I know from Wagga who is now in first year this year.

The afternoon talks started at 4 pm. The auditorium was about half full and you could see why the organising committee had decided to run the conference in two streams. On stage, Allison Vassallo (who did Uni with one of my friends from school) was leading the music. In the band, there were three violinists, one cellists, one pianist, one guitarist, one bass player, one drummer, three back-up singers and Allison. I thought that was a little excessive but maybe that's just me.

In true EQUIP-style, each speaker was introduced with a short video showing some aspect of them in order to help us get to know them. I've always been a bit sceptical about this. In some cases, I really like it (and I like the multimedia element) but I thought it was kind of funny that in Isobel's video, we got a look at her house but she had cleaned it up specially for that. I wondered, why not just leave it messy? Then we'd see the real Isobel (or what family life is really like for Isobel) rather than this polished cleaned-up version that she'd like us to see. I know a lot of people think that the EQUIP organising committee is compromised of these super-Christian-women who seem to have it all together and who don't seem to have a problem juggling ministry with family life; showing a video like that would just cement that notion in their minds.

The electives at EQUIP are usually topical but the talks are from Bible passages. They work through books of the Bible over several years. So last year was on James 1 and this year was on James 2 (with talks by Isobel Lin and Carmelina Read). In between, there is usually a short talk on another passage of the Bible (usually Old Testament) and this year it was my old Arts MTS worker, Alison Napier, speaking on Rahab. Each talk was very faithful to the Biblical text and brought out the gospel very strongly and clearly. It wasn't too heavy either (about Women's Katoomba Convention level) for the sake of young Christians or non-Christians in the audience. I thought Carmelina did a good job of explaining James 2:24 (“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”) but Isobel Lin could have done more to define favouritism. Amongst Little, Elsie and me, we were a little confused as to when it's showing favouritism and when it's just practical and necessary. For example, with friends, you can't be friends with everybody (see my previous post). It's good to not just be friends with people you like but broaden your circle of friendship a little to include people you find a bit more challenging (or harder to love). But you're only going to be able to be friends with some people and not others. We also wondered whether God's choice of Jacob over Esau constituted favouritism in Isobel's books but that's another story.

I think perhaps I might being a bit hard on Isobel. I admit that my hackles were raised when she made statements like, “Choose to love all your neighbours every moment, every day—sick and healthy, rude and polite, uneducated and educated, disfigured and beautiful, unemployed and professional, poor and rich.” (Typed from memory and from my notes.) I guess I react very strongly to that sort of language because it's the sort of language that induces a lot of guilt—particularly in people with depression. And even though I know it's hyperbole used to make a point, I just wonder whether there are better ways to make the same point without resorting to unrealistic hyperboles.

In between the talks, the band performed some musical items, the missionary who spoke at Women's Fellowship on Friday night was interviewed and Emma who is at Moore college reviewed some books. (I had hoped that she would review Prayer and the Voice of God but instead she reviewed A Sinner's Guide to Holiness [with a short amusing interview with John Chapman] and Is it Worth Believing? The Spiritual Challenge of the Da Vinci Code [Greg Clarke]. Perhaps I am learning to think like a publisher after all.) It is a well-attested fact that Christian women buy (and read) more books than Christian men so I hope the day's takings generated enough profit to pay my salary for June!

I suggested to Guan and Duncan that they blog about their reflections of attending a women's convention (in contrast to a men's convention. Do men's conventions have that many members in the band?) so I suppose I ought to post a few of mine:

After it was all over, Little and I said goodbye to Elsie and headed back to Town Hall to catch the train home. And I had Shepherd's Pie with steamed carrots for dinner and Ben and I watched Girl, Interrupted.

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I would raise your issues from Isobel’s talk with her if you can get in contact - on a blog she might not read it but others will. It would probably help her to have some feedback. Often people never get feedback and are never encouraged or don’t know how they can improve. (Maybe her house is always tidy!???)

Posted by hezza on 29 May, 2006 1:23 AM

on the other hand, some people don’t want feedback unless they ask for it.

wow, you know sonja. everyone knows everyone.

i have some thoughts about God showing favouritism, but I have a feeling I will have to write my own post about it. it will probably be my NT essay anyway.

Posted by Seumas on 29 May, 2006 4:10 AM

I put some comments about the favouritism bit in the feedback form I filled out on the day. But there was limited space and I didn’t have as much time to think about it so the other stuff didn’t really get put in there. I’m not sure where you can submit further feedback. Bec, do you know?

Hi Karen, I was just wondering if the talks are available online? We’ve just had our own homegrown tassie women’s conference and it would be really useful to hear some examples of women preaching.


Posted by bronwyn on 29 May, 2006 6:28 AM

Hey Bron,

Unfortunately they’re not available for free but you can purchase them through the Matthias Media online store in CD and MP3 format (MP3 is cheaper). Previous years are also available there too.

oh, i had another thought I meant to add before. about guilt in preaching. I think there is a place for guilt-preaching - making people feel guilty for sin is entirely appropriate. and it should lead to one place - forgiveness and freedom from sin. you are right, guilt should never lead to action in the christian life. the motivation to deeds comes from an entirely different locus of christian thought and experience.

Posted by Seumas on 29 May, 2006 7:36 AM

I’m not sure whether guilt is a right or effective motivator. I definately came away from Equip feeling incredibly guilty and confused. I might blog about it when I have time to think…

Where guilt equals conviction of one’s sin leading to godly grief leading to repentance, that’s part of the gospel, isn’t it? I hear things from the pulpit, feel guilty and need to repent often. But it’s hard not to stall on the guilty part, and it would be especially so if you were suffering from depression.

Jacob and Esau demonstrates God’s sovereign choice more than “favoritism”, right? Their parents played favourites, not God.

I feel quite alienated and bemused by some “women’s humour”, but I think it’s a generational thing most of the time—I haven’t been married nor have most of my friends, or had kids, or grown up in a time where female domestic stereotypes were really powerful and uni education for women wasn’t the norm. Hence my mum and I laugh at different things, but I would hesitate to call it sad (predictable, yes!). Married-person humour mystifies me more.

What’s married-person humour like?? Give concrete examples please :D

Hey, just on the masturbation thing, my rector, Ian Powell gave a great sermon on Judah and Tamar, Genesis 38 two weeks before our church burnt down, and it survived!! There’s a whole section on spilling seed/masturbation (“the sin of Onan)and I found it very interesting and helpful. It’s not all/only about masturbation, but all in all a fantastic sermon on a really weird part of the Bible. It’s online at http://sermons.barneys.org.au/sermons/2006.html
Under April 30, The Ugly Duckling Chapter

Posted by Joanna on 30 May, 2006 1:40 AM

i give this recommendation second-hand, because I’ve glanced at but not read it; Condie thinks it’s the best book on the topic, “Marriage: Sex in the Service of God” by Christopher Ash. it’s a thorough biblical and theological work on marriage. something for your reading list perhaps.

Posted by Seumas on 30 May, 2006 8:31 PM

Hey gorgeous, I have posted about EQUIP, and other things. Would love to come to PEC in September.

Seamus blogged about whether God plays favourites here.

Hi - you might not know me. I did mts at wollongong a few years before you. A wollongong friend put me onto your blog.

I really like what you said about guilt. I have thought this for a long time. My hubby is a minister and for the first few years that was what I focused on when he asked me for feedback. I think guilt is a manipulative tool, and ultimately the motivation to change doesn’t last as long as encouragement does. It’s also much easier to use guilt than to encourage.

I think it would be worth giving feedback. I am sure you could do so via the equip site.

This is a great blog by the way.

Hey, if we preachers can’t use guilt: what can we use?

You kidding me, Michael??? You use the gospel to motivate change, not guilt. You use guilt to convict people of sin where there is sin in need of repentance.

Oh yeah… sorry, I WAS joking!

Amen to what you said.

Posted by michael jensen on 16 June, 2006 6:15 AM

Good, you had me worried!


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