The Cipriano de Valera Conference in Spain
Cipriano de Valera was instrumental in giving Spaniards the Scriptures in their own language at the time of the Reformation, so much so that his name still adorns the spine of many Spanish Bibles today (along with that of Casiodoro de Reina). But for the last twenty-two years the name of Cipriano de Valera has been associated with one of the very few annual Reformed conferences held in Spain. Originally organised under the auspices of Editorial Peregrino, it has passed through various hands, until recently returning to its second guardians, AMRE (Reformed Ministerial Association of Spain). Since its inception, European Missionary Fellowship workers have been at the forefront of the conference, whether in the organisation, attendance or speaking.
As well as attending, and also speaking on two occasions, for the last 12 years or so I have been helping with the organisation and running of the conference. Numbers vary between 30 and 50 every year, many of whom are pastors seeking some spiritual respite in the midst of busy lives. So the responsibility is great, and thankfully shared and delegated as much as possible.
Dates are fixed from year to year, usually the last week in June or the first week in July. For the last six years we have been using a small, family-run, country hotel situated an hour to the west of Madrid (look up Piedralaves on Google Earth). So that bit’s quite straightforward.
The next task is to find speakers and subjects, and match them up as much as possible. During the conference we seek to maintain a balance between the theological, the historical and expository preaching. One speaker will usually take three theological sessions (past subjects include: Eschatology, Election, Liberation Theology, Revival, Cessationism); another deals with an historical person or movement, also in three sessions (Abraham Kuyper, Jonathan Edwards, Men of Princeton, Cipriano de Valera, to name but a few of those dealt with), and then three preachers will each take one evening session. The smallness of the work in Spain often necessitates bringing speakers from abroad, mainly from the UK, but also from France and the USA. However, we seek to maintain a balance by using Spaniards and men working in Spain as much as possible.
Often the details of speakers and subjects are not finalised until after Christmas, by which time we need to be thinking of producing the publicity. This is sent not only to churches linked to AMRE through their pastors, but also to other like-minded folk, previous attendees, and churches local to the conference venue.
Then the subscriptions begin to arrive, along with the down-payments into the bank account. We’re always looking for more than 40 to register in order to keep on the right side of the budget. The final numbers are phoned through to the hotel the week before and then the final details need to be sorted out. A musician needs to be confirmed, hymnbooks prepared (or found in the attic where they were deposited last year). A conference handbook and timetable need to be prepared for everyone attending. Room allocations based on such things as age or snoring decibels need to be sorted, and sometimes re-sorted. The amplification, recording and, if we have a non-Spanish speaker, simultaneous translation equipment, all need to be collected
The day of the conference arrives and Judith and I try to be there early to set up the rooms and electronic equipment. The family that run the hotel greet us like long-lost friends. They are not believers, yet look forward to the Conference as they say we give them so few problems compared to others that use the hotel. And then the guests begin to arrive . . .
The conference lasts from Monday teatime to Thursday dinnertime and usually passes in a flash. It doesn’t seem long until we are packing up again, saying our ‘goodbyes’ and ‘see-you-next-years’. Then it’s back home for a good rest!
This year’s conference, the first week in July, was well attended, with over fifty present including children. Alan Cairns, an Ulsterman pastoring in the USA, spoke on ‘The Implications of Free Grace’ from Romans 6; Steve Phillips, an American pastoring to the north of Barcelona, spoke on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and as well as two evening preaching sessions we also had a book presentation in a nearby town with no gospel witness.
As I said earlier, many of the EMF workers in Spain attend the conference, and help with the organising. As one might imagine, this takes time, usually done in our spare time. But then, many of the ministries that EMF workers are involved in are done in their spare time: the camps ministry with three camps a year; Grace Bible College, with over 20 students by correspondence; the Evangelical Library, still in its early days because of lack of time; the administration of the AMRE organisation; the publication, hopefully next year, of a Reformed hymnbook; and the list could go on. Most of the men involved in these ministries are full-time pastors.
Plans are already in hand for next year’s ‘Conferencia Cipriano de Valera’ – we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. The hotel is booked for 30th June to 3rd July. Why not pay us a visit? Translation into English provided as part of the service!
Matt Hill pastors a church in Cuenca, in the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain. This article is taken with permission from the EMF’s Vision of Europe magazine, October-December 2008.
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