I was at the conference bit of cnmac13. (And cnmac12. And cnmac11. Just so you know.) And I enjoyed being at all of them. I have met people who have become friends, I have met people face to face who were already friends. I have learned, been challenged to rethink, I’ve agreed heartily, I’ve disagreed thoroughly. cnmac has grown, and grown into a new venue, with room to expand. Lots of people work incredibly hard to dream a day and make it reality. I am, in fact, a bit of a cnmac fan.
So I think I’d like to issue a reminder. cnmac is aimed at a hugely broad range of people, in terms of their Christian experience, their theology and their use of technology. There are people (thank God) with a ministry of teaching others who to use particular bits of tech. There are people who have loads of experience which they (thank God) are willing to share. There are people who have had their fingers and hearts badly burned online, and who (thank God) speak out their stories. There are people who have wandered in just to see what the fuss is about. And there is a broader range even than that – the people who aren’t there, but who follow the discussions online. cnmac is a pretty broad church (although my observation of the age demographic is that it is light on the elderly and youth, not a criticism, an observation).
I have heard voices before, during and after raised in criticism of cnmac. I share some of those concerns, and really am not that fussed about others. I’m not going to get into the awards debate. But I would like to pick up the point of “being the best”. I want, passionately need, to be the best I can be. Me. Child of God. Bearer of the Image of God. I don’t need to be better than another, because I can’t be. But I do need help and encouragement to be the best I possibly can, to the glory of God. cnmac reinforces some things I do, and points out the deficiencies. cnmac is part of the the things that help me grow.
I am an adult. I can make my own choices. I pay my money, pick my sessions, and if I am neither challenged nor encouraged, I walk out. That is my decision, and my right. It is also a consequence of the broad nature of the conference – sometimes I will misinterpret what a session is trying to achieve, and find that it isn’t something helpful to me. The beauty of cmmc is that if I walk out, it just gives me more time to chat to other people.
My concern is how to engage more widely, how to share the knowledge and the encouragement, in ways that don’t wind people up. I detest the London-centric nature of the conference, and @pmphillips was very gracious when I challenged him about it a few days before the event. His take was that people are more willing to travel into London that out of it. If venues are hired, they must be paid for, and the subsidy of the event by Premier is apparently hefty (no, I don’t know, and I only trip over Premier at cnamc.) But I wonder if that’s good enough. cnmac started with a couple of hundred people – is it so unlikely that it could attract similar numbers elsewhere? Say Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester, York, Sheffield, Leeds or Newcastle? (And that’s without potential non English venues). I suspect that a higher than usual proportion of Christians who spend time online developing ministries there do so because they are restricted physically – and travelling to London can be an exhausting endeavour. Or at least could the conference develop ways of reaching beyond the four walls (you know what I mean) of the Brewery? The twitterstream is one way of crowd sourcing a feel of the day….but there must be other ways.
cnmac is a great event. I’ll almost certainly be at cnmac14 too (1st November 2014 – if my diary allows). But it has to keep innovating and developing, keep offering encouragement, keep being clear that this isn’t “the only” way, just one way to The Way. There are a lot of voices for the organisers to hear and to process, as they plan a future. The voices, and the organisers, are in my prayers tonight.