New Horizon in the rear view mirror

So this year’s New Horizon has been and gone. We had amazing weather up until the last couple of days – there was enough rain to give people a good soaking as they arrived on Friday evening.

Krish Kandiah – one of the main stage speakers – has written some of his impressions of the week: his five highlights were:

  1. Hospitality
  2. Mission focussed
  3. Causeway Coast
  4. Diversity
  5. Multi-generational.

You can see what he means by those headers over on his blog.

Pauline and I have been at almost twenty of these events (I think this was number 18); we used to include a New Horizon week as part of our summer family holiday when we lived in Switzerland. Recently our involvement has grown as Pauline leads the pastoral support/prayer team and is part of the management team for the event. This year we also ran a three part seminar aimed mainly for people in Christian leadership/ministry. It was a look at the life of Moses as a paradigm for a leadership journey.

We didn’t experience everything the event had to offer, but here are five observations of my own.

Speakers: there has been something of a shift over the past few years, with something of a move away from a preponderance of more Reformed (and North American) voices. Krish Kandiah has commented on the diversity of this year’s speakers (a Pentecostal theologian – Rikk Watts, a Charismatic Anglican – Simon Ponsonby and himself – a Baptist, though with a mix of spiritual heritage). In some ways they may not have been as diverse as Krish suggests – there were certain common emphases – and possibly not as diverse as next year’s line-up which includes Vaughan Roberts and Malcolm Duncan. Each of the three main speakers brought something fresh and challenging, from Rikk Watts and his mind-stretching surveys of biblical theology to Simon Ponsonby’s call to get back to the Bible, to holiness and to compassion; Krish Kandiah in turn brought a series of very practical challenges to biblical obedience.

Response: it is hard to gauge the impact of an event like this. Is it best judged by attendance? By the amount of money that is given? By people volunteering to join a mission organisation? By how many people spend time in the prayer tent? Last year saw many people come to the prayer tent at the close of the evening meetings. This year there were fewer, though some spent a lot of time dealing with real problems and some people came to faith. Real impact will be lasting impact and at the end of the day, only God will be able to measure what is done – both in the lives of those who attended and in the lives that they in turn will influence.

Finance: New Horizon has tried hard to avoid charging an entrance fee for the event. However a large amount of money is needed to make the event run and that depends on the freewill response of people who attend the week. This year it was possible to give by mobile phone text (NEWH13 £amount 70070). I don’t know how many people avail themselves of this (you could give it a try if you like!). It seems to me that more people should avail themselves of giving via monthly standing order. For example a £10 per month contribution (gift-aided if possible) would go beyond the estimated £110 per person needed.

Worship: over the years there has been a variety of guest ‘worship leaders’, including Stuart Townend, Dave Pope and David Lyle Morris. This year the leader was Belfast musician Roo Stewart. Technically, standards were good, the team worked hard and led with passion, and there was opportunity to be exposed to some new songs/arrangements. One disappointment was that I think this may have been the first year for a while without any of Keith Getty’s hymns (Keith and Kristyn have been involved in leading in the past). I realise the reasons were not the same as those behind the PCUSA’s decision to omit In Christ Alone from their hymn book, but perhaps it’s a pity that one of Northern Ireland’s premier Christian events didn’t manage to find room one evening for something by one of the world’s leading hymn-writers who is a friend of the event.

Volunteers: without volunteers, the event would not happen. From the creche helpers, through the legions of young people involved in children’s and youth ministry, to the team who run the event, to the army of stewards and attendants who are operating in all weathers (this year was not the worst, though ask a steward about Friday evening). Well done to all of them and to the leadership team for all that went into an important work.

If you missed the event, some of the resources are already available for purchase on the New Horizon website.

PS – more on worship

Roo Stewart has graciously dialogued with me about the lack of Getty songs in the repertoire: here are some of the criteria he used in his preparation –

  • what worked well over the last few years at NH and doesn’t feel tired or overdone? (we focused on N.Irish songs and hymns last year, as that was a theme for the album as well)
  • what ‘current’ songs and hymns are working well in local churches? (I canvassed opinion from various local worship-types about this)
  • what ancient hymns fit with the themes?
  • what new songs are working well globally that may serve the local churches?
  • are the songs easy for a congregation to learn yet rich in truth?
  • what can the musicians we gathered actually manage to play reasonably well?
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