John Smith

It's out of this world. Well, it's out of my world anyway.

This extravaganza we call the General Conference Session; this monolithic Congress Center and vast Georgia Dome; this massive, modern and vibrant city called Atlanta is a world away from the world in which I live.

My world is a tiny village in Rural England. My home is a modest red brick 1950's bungalow and my life in retirement is quiet and contemplative. My children, children -- one's 28, the eldest is 30 -- say as the young often do, "get a life, Dad."

But I'm happy with my life, growing into the third age as most middle age men do, helping my wife with this and that, attending a few clubs and societies and watching my grass grow and, oh yes, grumbling. It's a requirement. Old men are required to become grumpy old men.

I've grumbled in recent months about television's tedious and incessant coverage of the British General election and the wall-to-wall previewing and coverage of the World Cup finals in South Africa.

I just couldn't wait to get to the General Conference Session here in Atlanta, a World Cup-free zone. And that has been a blessing. Apparently England played their third group game a day or so ago but I don't know how they got on or whether they are still involved in the soccer spectacle.

Oh yes, one or two people do come up to me and feel obliged to tell me that England struggled in their game against the United States -- they always seem to be Americans. I've been in a real bubble in Atlanta, in my own little world. But so has everyone who has arrived at the General Conference Session. The daily program starts early, the first meeting for the Church leaders is at 6:30 a.m. the last often goes on till midnight and there is little time for anything else in between.

The business, worship, entertainment and exhibition program is all-embracing and it's easy to forget there's a world outside this huge convention center. I have tried, but the television in my room and the unsolicited newspaper pushed under my door only contain tedious blurb about this and that in America and you have more chance of finding an Adventist alcoholic than finding important information about the situation in Gaza, Afghanistan or any other major newsworthy spot in the real world.

And once you get into the Conference Center you enter a world of promotion and publicity, leaflets and publications thrust into your hand, free gifts that would make Santa Claus look like a miser and exhibition booth stewards offering, promising and toting every type of solution to life's ills.

In the Georgia Dome there's a non-stop program of music, movies and magical presentations equaling the best of the Hollywood Bowl, Ron Howard and Michael Jackson and it's all at 30,000 decimals. Even the men's room is no escape from the incessant noise.

But then, there are the business sessions and as someone in retirement who was pleased to leave behind the routine of business meetings, I have to say the commencement of a business session is something of a joy and the devotionals remind us why we are here. My faith is one of private prayer, appropriate praise, and quiet contemplation, a world away from this world I have stepped into at the General Conference Session.

But, as someone who battles as a broadcaster to raise the profile of the church, I stand in awe of the relentless razzmatazz, the unlimited outpouring of praise and the uninhibited commitment to faith demonstrated here in Atlanta, and if I'm honest, I'm admiring, appreciating and enjoying every minute of it.

It really is a world away from my idyllic rural existence at home and my tiny church in Southampton. I do this as another world -- out of this world. And please excuse me if I seem a grumpy old man -- it's a requirement.

--John Smith is a former radio producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation. He is producing the Atlanta 2010 Today radio podcast for the Adventist Church's World Session.

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