September 2004 had me in Tasmania, I had expected to be home in the UK by July, but my stay had already been extended and I would end up staying for a further 3 years. It was to be an incredible journey of growth and self-discovery that has shaped every aspect of my life since then. Every September until 2009, Fusion’s annual International Conference took place. I have been part of annual Christian conferences for various denominations and groups, but this was different. It was during this period that Fusion, after 40 years of Australian ministry, began to branch out into other nations; the palpable excitement as the expanding family gathered each year and new members were welcomed in was amazing to experience. To embrace, experience and understand Fusion’s International conference is, in my view, to understand Fusion; those conferences embodied much of the Myth of Fusion for us.
International Conference was a time when we all came together and as with many family gatherings it was a time of celebration and sharing news of what we had all been doing. We welcomed all the babies that had been born to Fusion staff over the last 12 months, those present would be sung over and prayed for by all of us. We celebrated engagements, weddings and together remembered those who had gone to be with Jesus. We spent time sharing stories of our youth and community mission work in local centers across the globe: celebrating young and old finding their place and making a difference in their world (many finding faith in the process), celebrating the heroes amongst us, living lives of sacrificial service and mission in God’s Kingdom in every country and state. The last evening of conference was the family concert during which every child and teenager becomes a star and the whole family is treated to a frenzy of creativity, fun, singing, drama, dance and general mayhem at the end of which we’ve all cried and laughed till our sides hurt and cheered and hollered till we’re hoarse!
Each evening one of our number would share a devotion. No fancy ‘thought for the day’ pithy sayings for us. A bit like a psalm of David, a devotion given by a fusion staff member is usually a gutsy sharing of the reality of life on the front line, doing our best to trust God, having a go, falling over, getting up again and seeing God’s overwhelming love and grace cover us despite our stumblings. As people shared from across the globe, we were reminded that we are part of God’s incredible family, and we live among heroes!!
The conferences were the peak decision making body of the movement. Every major initiative or strategy would be brought to the conference to be discussed and was adopted by the whole conference through a process of direct consensus. Before my time, the movements goals to 2020 were nutted out and adopted at an annual conference and have guided our direction and strategy ever since. Discussing something like this would take time, but we were not through until everyone’s concerns were heard and we were all of one mind one way or another… even if that meant staying up till the wee hours of the morning! The process would drive insane both the uninitiated and those who were more structurally oriented and efficiency driven!!! It certainly wasn’t about efficiency. It was about the unity and fellowship to which we aspired, it was an expression of the vows we take when we become staff and the values we aspire to that culminate in being able to say that as well as we know how and with God’s grace, ‘together we have the mind of Christ’.
At each conference we elected our office bearers who’s job it was to lead us so that we would achieve the things we had agreed to each year. Each person elected was there on the basis of a staggering minimum of 80% of total votes. We wanted to know that we were in agreement about those leading us, that through careful prayer and consideration we were discerning those who God had for us for the following year. Imagine doing a job that you know at least 80% of the organization is behind you on!
One of the most solemn parts of conference was the staff induction service during which those who after much prayerful consideration, felt that God was calling them to serve as ministers amongst us would be officially welcomed into our fellowship. During the service both the inductees and those already staff vow to love, encourage and support one another and to ‘serve together the one Lord Jesus Christ the Head of the Church’. It is a profound moment as those who have lived this life of sacrificial ministry for decades stand with the novices and together, once again, we all look to Christ for the strength to love and serve him in whichever way he chooses to lead us. We listen together to the words from the Benedictine Rule for a New Brother …
“So keep Jesus Christ before your eyes,
Do not hesitate to go anywhere he leads you,
Do not stay where you are and do not look back,
but look forward with eagerness to what lies ahead. “
These are just a few of the things that made Fusion’s annual International Conference the heart beat for our movement. Since 2009 we have not gathered in the same way as an International Movement but my hope is that we will not lose the Myth of Fusion carried through the annual conferences but rather discover new ways of keeping it alive amongst us.