Rev. Stewart is pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland.
It was not that long ago that the SB carried a report on the 2006 British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Family Conference at Cloverley Hall in England, and already it is providing information about the 2008 BRF Conference.
Speakers and Subjects
The biennial general meeting at last August’s BRF conference settled upon the speakers for the next conference: Professors Engelsma and Hanko, who have served us so well in the past. The theme too was decided: “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” We are already looking forward to six quality lectures and good fellowship on this worthy subject. The conference venue was decided to be somewhere suitable in the green island of Ireland, either North or South, as the BRF Council thought good.
After many discussions, telephone calls, e-mails, and visits, the site for the 2008 BRF Family Conference has now been booked. Our venue is the Share Centre (also called the Share Holiday Village) in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, just minutes from the border with the Republic of Ireland. Share is located on a 60-acre site right on the tranquil shores of Upper Lough Erne, part of the largest inland waterway in Europe, which eventually, as the River Shannon, enters the Atlantic Ocean at Limerick.
Besides the attractive location, Share Village is also the largest activity centre in Ireland. Water sports on the lake include kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, dinghy sailing, and keelboat sailing. For the younger children, there are the options of banana skiing or the more sedate setting of the small beach. The Inishcruiser, a 57-seat, luxury, heated cruiser, will suit all age groups. The one and a half hour boat trip explores some of the lesser known and most beautiful parts of Lough Erne, including a nearby castle under the care of the National Trust.
Also on site, there is an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a steam room, and a fitness suite, as well as pool tables and equipment for archery and fuzzball (which I had never heard of before). There are 30-foot climbing walls (indoor and outdoor), professionally designed in order to offer exciting climbs for beginners to experts. Activities for smaller children include pottery, mosaic, mask-making, batik, T-shirt printing, and pedal go-karting, besides a shallow, indoor swimming pool, a soft play room, and an outdoor play park.
The more technical activities are led by qualified and experienced members of the Share staff.
The accommodation sleeps up to 220 people—arranged in cozy chalets or in the modern style “Farmhouse.” All rooms are double-glazed and have central heating for year-round use and comfort. Currently over 80% of the accommodation is en-suite, and by 2008 this percentage may well be even higher.
Importantly, all of Share’s facilities have been built for guests with disabilities, to ensure freedom of access and independence. Even the Inishcruiser is fully wheelchair accessible, with onboard toilets. The conference site itself is flat, being on the edge of a lake. So the less able-bodied and the elderly will be well catered to.
Some, especially in the British Isles, may be interested to know that Share has a campsite, situated in a secluded wooded corner. There are 13 sites for caravans with electric hook-ups and 24 spaces for tents. Laundry facilities are available both for those in static and in mobile accommodation.
We may well take a day trip to the Ulster American Folk Park. Of special, but not exclusive, interest to those from the US and Northern Ireland, this fine museum explains the immigration from Ireland to America, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and traces the success (or otherwise) of the immigrants in the new world. The Ulster American Folk Park also includes an extensive open-air museum (www.folk park.com).
Why the Advanced Notice?
In general, conference centers are being booked further and further in advance. So the BRF needs to put its name down for a venue early. And once it is booked, why not let everyone know as soon as possible? Then people can begin to think about it and plan for it early, in God’s will (James 4:15).
More specifically, since the Share Centre has 220 beds, we have potential at this BRF conference to have a larger group than usual. If enough people sign up, we could have the centre all to ourselves. We think that the beautiful location and the wide range of activities will make this site especially attractive to young people and therefore to parents, and even older saints, who will, no doubt, enjoy spectating! All this on top of what we fully expect will be superb, Reformed lectures on “The Work of the Holy Spirit,” the blessed presence of the living God with us! Share Village has a good website, complete with color pictures, which should give you a good feel for the place, so why not look it up (www.sharevillage.org)?
Also, Share requires notification of bookings and payment earlier than most venues. Thus the BRF needs full payment, from those joining us for the conference, at latest two months before the conference begins.
Since this site is in Northern Ireland, we would envisage a number of Protestant Reformed saints wanting to see the new Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) building, which should be well completed by the summer of 2008. Moreover, Philip Rainey, a member of the CPRC, is proposing driving a group of visitors in a minibus around some of the sites of special interest in Northern Ireland for a couple of days after the conference. Thus some may come for the 2008 BRF Conference itself (Friday 25 July-Friday 1 August) and then join the CPRC for worship in our new building (Sunday 3 August) and take advantage of the minibus tour through parts of Northern Ireland (Monday 4-Tuesday 5 August).
More details will be provided as they become available through the British Reformed Journal (for subscribers), the BRF website (www. britishreformedfellowship.org.uk), and Julie Rainey, the BRF conference booking secretary (jhrainey firstname.lastname@example.org).
We hope that many of you will be able to join us, in God’s will, for the tenth biennial BRF Conference on “The Work of the Holy Spirit” at the Share Centre (25 July- 1 August, 2008).