The Beginning Of Something Important • by TERRY O'SULLIVAN
A FEW MONTHS AGO I PICKED UP a leaflet for a Men's Weekend being run at Stonyhurst College. I signed up for it, sent off a cheque (not a bad price for a weekend away from it all in sunny Lancashire) and waited to see what happened.
When I signed in on Friday evening I got a lapel badge with my name on and the letters "F/G". Friendly Giant? Fat Git? No - according to the accompanying information this was an alphabetical code to identify men from the same locality in order to keep in touch after the event. I had some difficulty tracing the other F/Gs at first. They were all from the same parish in Wakefield where they have had a men's group going for a couple of years. The idea was that you made contact with your group members in the bar. I finally tracked them down in the kitchen on our corridor, arranged round a fridge full of lager!
Worship, talks and meeting in small groups
The first preacher I have seen use a flip chart
The other speaker was an Evangelical minister from Nottingham, David Shearman. He took the floor on Saturday. He was terrific: the first preacher I have ever seen using a flip chart. His first talk was a personal reflection on some of his life experiences. His second talk focused on the nature of sacrifice for Christians. This might seem a bit abstract and uncomfortable as a subject, but it certainly struck a chord. Suffering is a part of all our lives, although it seems not to be very evenly spread at times. Reverend Shearman put it in the light of God's loving plan for us as individuals. Of course suffering remains a mystery - it would be glib to pretend otherwise. But by relating the idea of sacrifice to Scripture, and to the crucifixion in particular, David Shearman set the practical issues David Alton had been talking about into a spiritual context.
Some kind of wonderful football match
The best part of the weekend
I think the best part of the weekend, though, was the small groups sessions. Men are famous for not being able to communicate - it's one of the reasons why so many of us suffer from stress and make so many others unhappy! Here was an opportunity to relax and talk about things that matter in life besides carburettors and cricket. My group was a very diverse bunch and yet we all had so much in common in terms of what is going on in our lives as fathers, sons, husbands, and workers. The ground rules for the groups were complete confidentiality and no pressure. We heard each other, and prayed with and for each other. It sounds odd perhaps, but it was an upbuilding experience. I am hoping to stay in touch with the others during the year and to get together from time to time for more of this.
The beginning of something important for me
I think this weekend was the beginning of something really important for me. I hope that reading this account will encourage you to want to come next year.