On 28 November the Jesus Fellowship held ‘Accelerate’, their first national women’s day at Northampton Jesus Centre.
“I CAME away from Accelerate renewed… I lay at the foot of the wooden cross at the front of the hall for what seemed a long time. I felt waves of God's love – each time I confessed my needs to Him I felt the presence get stronger. Then, later, I joined in the worship. How can one explain how beautiful, strengthening and reassuring it is to be in such a place?” – Liz.
This is a day some of us have been eagerly waiting for. The doors are open and we’re filing in. A quick chat to friends, old and new, and, get ready everyone… we’re going to begin.
On stage are Debbie and Deborah, our amateur actresses, and they’re arranging a coffee morning for women from the Bible as diverse as Mary Magdalene, the widow of Nain, Anna the prophetess and Martha – just to mention a few. ‘This is going to be inspiring’, think Debbie and Deborah – meeting women who have actually seen the risen Jesus. But, times have changed, the memory is short and the once godly band has disintegrated into cliques, a culture of common, petty complaining, generational gaps and differences, looking back to ‘the good old days’ with no forward thinking. Jesus appears at the coffee morning, He is unrecognised and, in the end, rejected. ‘Never again,’ sigh the two Debbies as they muse on their disastrous grand-plan coffee morning.
We all see ourselves in this. Hoots of laughter as there are, it carries the sting of truth.
The band leads us in worship: what an array. A flute, banjo, drums, guitars as well as keyboard and vocals. Yes, there’s focus, we’re enjoying God together – after all, the theme of the day is ‘One in Worship’.
Angela reminds us that God wants our attention; indeed, what lengths He sometimes goes to, to gain it. We are so keen to have a date with our friends, but what about taking a day out with Jesus? Each one of us must have a genuine connection with Jesus otherwise we won’t survive. Intimacy and sweetness come from going somewhere alone with Jesus. Yes, life can be full of pain but there is a reminder here – the darkness of pain is only the middle of the story. This is deep stuff, it’s about real life, and people are intensely listening.
Later, there are workshops on Bible reading, prayer, worship and more – there’s humour, seriousness and above all, vulnerability. Some of us are sharing, opening up, we’re talking about our lives, what we’re really up against. Brilliant stuff.
I’m at a workshop on confidence and Alison is reading out a prophecy originating from Lisa Bevere in the States and what relevance it carries for us: “God invites us: Daughters, look at the lioness. Watch her closely. Let her awaken your untamed nature, your fierce beauty, and your unbridled strength so you can rise up and be the courageous women I have called you to be.”
Janet is back from Kenya but going out again shortly to continue with setting up a sewing workshop for women; she’s looking forward to retirement ahead with its new opportunities and is encouraging us to remain pioneers, adventurers, willing to move out of our comfort zone as we say our ‘yes’ to God.
A woman, casting herself at the feet of Jesus, profusely kissing His feet as a gesture of her willingness to be His slave; pent-up feelings of the years are being poured out in a floodgate of tear-filled affection. Wages of years are ‘squandered’ and earthly security broken. Olivia is encouraging us to abandon ourselves to Jesus in the same reckless devotion. She’s finished speaking now and many of us are kneeling at the wooden cross at the front, abandoning ourselves to Jesus, expressing our desire to be His and His alone - like this woman who so bravely expressed her vulnerability and commitment 2000 years ago.
Time for home … it’s been a feast. Hey, everyone, we must do this again. Here’s a few comments:
“Today was incredible, thank you to all of you that conquered fears, and got up there to share with us. The vulnerability, honesty and openness was beautiful. The worship was deep and heartfelt and the whole day had a perfect mix of humour, and seriousness. I came away feeling incredibly blessed, not only from the things I heard but also the things I saw. Friends loving and serving one another in many ways. Thank you church for being beautiful.” – Laura.
“Awesome … I felt very privileged to be part of such an amazing, inspiring group of women. Thanks to all those who shared and made themselves so vulnerable. Let's believe a fresh wave of confidence was released amongst us.” – Jayne
“Simply beautiful is the only way I can describe Accelerate. So blessed that so many women made themselves vulnerable to help God move. I love my church.” – Nicola