Clergy from across Connor Diocese attended a Training Day on April 11 with guest speaker the Rt Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield.
The day of talks, workshops and small group discussions drew some 80 participants from all parts of the diocese. For photographs follow this link.
It was organised by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Parish Development Officer Trevor Douglas and members of the Connor Vision Strategy Group and focused on engaging culture, one of the strands of the strategy.
The Training Day, held in the beautifully refurbished Lisburn Cathedral, was part of Connor’s ongoing Vision Strategy process and Bishop Croft spoke about listening to context and leadership in a changing context.
Other guests who contributed to the day were the Rev Dorothy McVeigh, rector of Annaghmore in the Diocese of Armagh, who delivered a seminar entitled Life in the Country. Fifteen clergy listened to Dorothy speak about mission and ministry in rural communities, looking at the challenges and opportunities for life in the country.
Another seminar entitled Want to be ‘Pro–Vision?’ was delivered by Dennis Johnston and Nicola Brown of CREED. It focused on participation and insights of Pro–Vision, a step by step plan to help churches work through issues of finance, resources and generous giving, enabling clergy to focus on the outworking of God’s vision for their ministry. Nine clergy attended this seminar.
More than 50 delegates signed up for the seminar on Take Back the City. In this, Bishop Croft drew upon his insights from both research and practice into how the church can engage in increasingly diverse, multi–cultural and ever changing urban towns and cities.
The day began with refreshments and fellowship, followed by a short act of worship and a welcome to delegates and speakers by the Bishop of Connor.
Bishop Alan said he hoped clergy would find the day both encouraging and a challenge, and stressed the importance of coming together.
He introduced the keynote speaker. Bishop Croft sits on the Church of England Archbishops’ Council and is Chair of the Ministry Council. Formerly warden in St John’s College in Durham, as well as Missioner and Leader of the Church of England Fresh Expressions team, he is a gifted author, thinker and communicator.
He is passionate about how the church can engage with large swathes of the population who have lost touch with the Christian faith.
Bishop Croft quickly encouraged debate, asking delegates to have a chat with someone they don’t normally see about the week they had had and the challenges they faced.
He spoke about the context in which he works in his own diocese in Sheffield, and about his attendance at the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops in Rome last October. The Bishop outlined what he said were significant features of today’s culture in relation to change and faith.
He said there was no systematic readymade solution to engage culture, but said hope is a virtue and hope is vital. He also introduced certain disciplines each church needs to practice.
Following a coffee break, delegates separated for the three seminars, each lasting around an hour.
After lunch in the Cathedral hall, the Rev Barry Forde, chair of the Vision Strategy team, spoke about the vision, outlining its background, goals and processes.
The Training Day is one of a number of initiatives from the Vison Strategy Team. Another will be a special diocesan focus on Pentecost Sunday with liturgical resources prepared by the Rev Peter McDowell being made available to all parishes, along with a Pentecost Sunday message from the Bishop of Connor.
“We are inviting you to use this Pentecost Sunday as a means of communicating this vision to your parish,” Barry said. “As well as the birth of the church we can celebrate the birth of a new vision for this diocese.”
Bishop Croft said the Vision Strategy was an ‘interesting and creative process.’ “I look forward to following its progress as you go forward,” he said.
The Bishop then delivered a second session looking at Leadership in a changing context, encouraging delegates to break into small groups to debate the issue further.
Questions were posed and tributes were paid to Bishop Croft during the final question and answer session before Bishop Alan closed the Training Day with prayer.
Further information on how to access resources for Pentecost Sunday will be available shortly.