Having visited Ffald-y-Brenin with friends last summer for four days, we were amazed by the atmosphere there, and although Ffald-y-Brenin is set high on a beautiful vantage point overlooking the valley below, I felt that it was not the altitude but rather the presence of God in the place that made me feel slightly intoxicated on arrival.
Daphne Godwin provided a lovely warm welcome and the home-cooked food and accommodation was perfect. As there were no formal sessions over the weekend that we stayed, we were especially grateful when Roy Godwin volunteered to speak to our small group and the other weekend visitors about the Ffald-y-Brenin ‘project’ and stories of what God was doing. We were even more pleased and powerfully touched when Roy offered to speak a blessing over us. We were slightly taken by surprise and a few minutes into the blessing, which was both rich and detailed, we wished we were recording it or someone had been writing it down.
So, as soon as we received the email announcing the Blessings Conference in March 2013, we signed-up without any hesitation.
The conference, which was very well organised, was held in a nearby chapel where over 160 people were arranged in downstairs seating and upper deck pews, perhaps recalling earlier days of Welsh revivals when the church must have been filled in a similar way.
The atmosphere among delegates was warm and friendly with plenty of conversations, chatter and exchange of contact details. One thing which was particularly refreshing (in an age when the church seems to be almost fixated with youth ministry) was the hair colour in the room, which for the men at least(!), was predominantly grey.
The Worship was often just one hymn sung without instruments before each session so was strong and included some great hymns including Dyma Gariad (the Welsh Revival Hymn). Roy spread his teaching over the 25 hours available into bite-size chunks mixed with practical application and opportunities to experiment in speaking a blessing over those in the seats to your left and right and in front. Roy’s teaching provided the biblical framework and as a result I was convinced by Roy’s whole thesis which is that the whole story of God is a story of blessing. He mixed his teaching (which was supported by detailed written notes) with practical examples and plenty of inspiring stories of people and places (including Ffald-y-Brenin itself) that had been changed as a result of blessings spoken over them. The practical sessions (which I was a touch nervous about beforehand) of speaking a blessing over someone near you came much easier than expected and was actually really good fun.
The power in the Blessings conference was that the concept is simple ‘God wants to bless his creation and through Jesus is reversing the impact of the fall’. One beautiful example was how Jesus taught the disciples about the Father’s provision (consider the lilies of the field) which reflected his original promise to provide for Adam and Eve in the garden.
The other major theme was the recognition of our role as Priests (within the Royal Priesthood) in which we are invited to stand in his presence, carry his presence and proclaim his blessing. The idea of blessings challenges our Christian ‘negativity’ – Roy was challenging us to consider how much of our attitudes to ‘outsiders’ can look worryingly similar to a curse rather than a blessing given freely.
We left the conference energised and with only one regret. How had we been followers of Jesus for over thirty years and not understood the role of Blessings until now? Oh well, they say the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today!