I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable Diocesan Conference for clergy and lay leaders. Over 300 church leaders from the Dioceses of Peterborough gave up 3 days in their parishes to come together to worship, learn and relax. Relaxation was aided by the presence of a bar complete with Belgian beers, Leffe and Hooegarden, on tap!
Highlights include each day’s Bible teaching on 2 Corinthians 3-5 from Paula Gooder. She is and extremely gifted communicator and Bible teacher and 2 Corinthians is her main area of study. She was able to plumb its depths with us and communicate it in a very clear and challenging way as we were encouraged to look for signs of God’s glory in us and in others and to embrace the new creation age that we are living in. I took copious notes (adding to the notes I took of the same talks when I heard her at a conference on Prayer in 2009!). Her notes from this conference can be found in the handouts section of her website.
It is worth noting that every person there, regardless of ecclesiology was lapping up every word of this high quality, verse-by-verse, thought through, expositional Biblical teaching. Other dioceses can take note – if they were thinking of dumbing down in order to try to include everyone.
I was also encouraged to hear Bishop Lindsey Urwin who is the leader of the Anglican church at Walsingham, which is a known as ‘England’s Nazareth’. In 1061 there was a vision of the Virgin Mary and a command to build a replica of the house where Jesus was born. It has become a centre for pilgrimage for Catholics and Anglo-Catholics. I have to admit my stereotypes, but I wasn’t expecting Bishop Lindsey to speak quite as wonderfully as he did – exhorting each of us to dig into the Bible and, when times are tough, to find God’s joy in the promises and doctrines within. He also does an excellent impression of one of Santa’s elves and tongue in cheek, he advocated burning father Christmas by the beard and using real manure in nativity scenes! Excellent stuff.
We were also entertained by novelist, comic author, and vicars wife, Catherine Fox who gave a hilarious after dinner speech.
But overall, it was wonderful simply to spend time relaxing with colleagues and meeting other ministers in the diocese for the first time. The encouragement that comes from chatting, over a pint, about how God is working in other areas cannot be underestimated, and I enjoyed explaining what I was doing ‘outside the box’ of the church.
A thoroughly wonderful diocesan conference, and I’m looking forward to the next one in 3 years time!