Saturday, September 04, 2004

British New Testament Conference 2004: Personal Reflections

I am sitting in Edinburgh airport after having attended the British New Testament Conference 2004, hosted by the Department of Divinity and Religious Studies at the University and a great success. First, though, some personal reflections on the more stressful side of attending these conference as secretary of the society, no doubt somewhat self-indulgent and probably worth deleting later on.

This was my last conference as secretary of the society. At the business meeting on Friday afternoon, Bridget Gilfillan Upton was elected unanimously as the new society secretary; a fine choice -- I am sure that she will do an excellent job. The society has grown enormously over the last three or four years and this conference, like Cambridge 2002 and Birmingham 2003, had over 170 delegates. The secretary's job has, as a result, also grown. I have found it tough to keep up with the job over the last six months or so, not least having also taken on other major responsibilities. Although Bridget will have her work cut out, there are two respects in which things will become simpler. First, the society has decided to separate out the jobs of secretary and treasurer for the first time. I will be the last of those who has had to combine the two roles. This is very good news. We were lucky to receive an offer for the role of treasurer from Lloyd Pietersen and the business meeting cheerfully accepted the offer and appointed him to the task. This becomes possible because Lloyd has previously acted as the society's independent examiner of accounts. Lloyd is not reneweing his certificate to practise as an accountant from next year so becomes available to join the committee in this new role of treasurer. I am delighted for Bridget's sake. I have found it hard to do the treasurer's job at the same time as the secretary's; I don't enjoy handling money, especially other people's money.

The other respect in which things are changing is that the secretary will not be responsible for the web site. Since you are reading this blog, you probably already know that I enjoy noodling around on the web and so I have offered to continue adminstering the web site for as long as the society is happy for me to do it.

I am writing this just after the end of the conference and am a bit fatigued from it all and looking forward next year, when we meet in Liverpool, to being able to go along as a ordinary punter again, to enjoy meeting old friends and new, to talk about research and other things, to enjoy seminars and sessions without worrying about things that might go wrong, wondering if I have forgotten to do anything and dashing around madly when I realise that I have forgotten do do something. The real low point for me this year was the realisation that I had forgotten to get the accounts summaries photocopied for the business meeting approximately five minutes before the business meeting was due to start. Fifteen minutes later, they were finally ready and having run to the business meeting with them (meeting someone on the way who told me not to rush -- for some reason they were late starting the meeting!) only to get there and realise that I had left all the agendas and minutes in my room. More running -- I felt a bit like Tru in Tru Calling; finally we were able to get under way late but I was now in such an breathless and sweaty state it was hard work to be coherent; the meeting felt vaguely shambolic. I realise that this kind of thing is, in the end, not that much of a big deal. So I've had to dash around a bit, but so what? I suppose the trouble is that this feels all too typical of what it has been like to be secretary of the society. I don't enjoy doing administration. And where last year Catherine Smith, who organised the Birmingham conference, was able to tell me what to do all the time, this year I had to keep thinking for myself. I'd rather be thinking about the Passion narrative, or the Gospel of Thomas, or the Epistle to the Galatians, than about where I should be, who I need to see, what I need to photocopy, what I might have forgotten to do.

Now that was cathartic. Next on to what I enjoyed about the conference.

to be continued . . . . .

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