History of New Dawn in the Church
Walsingham is a special place where people have come to pray since the 11th century and a place which conference organiser Myles Dempsey believes has a key role in the conversion of England.
In 1985 while at a large charismatic conference at Ars in France, he was very moved by the crowds and the fervour he saw there. Turning to God he began to intercede for England, and asked the Lord whether it was His will that something like this should there. He got back two clear words “Walsingham” and “New Dawn”.
At the time Walsingham meant little to him as he’d only visited the shrine once 20 years previously and it had made little impression on him. The sense of God’s calling was so strong, however, that he started a process of discernment to see if it would be feasible. There was no precedent in the Catholic Church in England for anything so big and lasting so long, as most large pilgrimages to Walsingham only came for a day and the logistics were frightening.
“I believe that one of the reasons the Lord founded our community in 1985 (Prince of Peace Community) was to establish the conference, otherwise we couldn’t have done it” says Myles. The little group had no experience of organising such an event and no financial assets, but they did have great faith, and with only £20 in a jam jar, they began the a mammoth task, picking up expertise on the way.
The first conference in 1987 attracted 800 people and an impressive line up of international speakers including Fr Tom Forrest CSSR (USA), Fr Jean Rudolph Kars (France) John Michael Talbot (USA), Fr Chris O’Donnell O’Carm (Ire) and national speakers such as Fr Ian Petit OSB, Fr Sean Conaty and Charles Whitehead. Special tents and marquees had to be erected to house the activities of the conference. When he saw these going up in the fields round the shrine, something resonated with Hensa a Jewish convert, who ran the shrine tea shop at the time. “It brought back an experience I had had when I was a child. It was as if I had seen it all somewhere before, even the colours of the tents and the way they were laid out.”