Clergy from across the Diocese of Connor gathered at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan on Tuesday November 8 for the first clergy conference since 2018. [Full picture gallery below]
More than 70 clergy and those involved in ministry in the diocese joined the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison and diocesan staff for the three-day conference.
Bishop George led a number of sessions and Dr Maurice Elliott, Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, led Bible studies over the three days.
The liturgy for all services for the conference was prepared by the Rev Canon Peter McDowell, rector of Ballywillan, Portrush; and the worship was accompanied by music from the Rev Jonny Campbell-Smyth (Ballynure and Ballyeaston); the Rev Trevor Johnston (All Saints’, Belfast); Archdeacon Stephen McBride (All Saints’, Antrim) and the Rev Stu Reid (Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin).
Conference opened on Tuesday afternoon with worship, followed by Dr Elliott’s first Bible study on the theme ‘Moving forward on the principal of turning back’ (Psalm 51).
The first session led by Bishop George was entitled ‘Sharing a vision,’ and in the course of the session, clergy gathered into their Rural Deanery groups for small-group discussion. After dinner, the first day concluded with a short talk from Archdeacon Barry Forde on pioneer ministry, followed by Evening Prayer.
Wednesday morning opened with a Service of Holy Communion, led by Bishop George assisted by the Rev Gareth Campbell.
Dr Elliott’s second Bible Study was on the theme ‘Moving forward on the basis of solid ground’ (Mark 15: 25-39), and the sun shone as all delegates moved outdoors for the traditional conference photograph. Afterwards, Bishop George led his second session entitled ‘Jesus-shaped Life,’ with people again gathering in smaller groups to talk about the issues presented by the bishop.
There was some free time on Wednesday afternoon, with the opportunity to take a walk, chat with colleagues, play a round of golf or simply relax and recharge. Following the evening meal, Bishop George led his third session ‘Building the Family,’ with many contributions from the floor following group discussions.
Richard Cotter, Diocesan Finance and Administration Manager, gave an update on the new diocesan Content Management System, and Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie spoke about Clusters, a Youth Council initiative for clergy and youth leaders. Thursday evening concluded with a Service of Compline.
Dr Elliott’s final Bible study on Thursday morning was entitled ‘Moving forward by means of a spiritual health check’ (Col 1: 1-14). The Rev Canon Kevin Graham, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, spoke about ordination in stipendiary and non-stipendiary ministries and Ordained Local Ministry, and the Rev Peter Jones, Warden of Readers, talked about readers’ ministry.
Bishop George led his final session on the theme ‘Growing the team,’ and Church Army Evangelists Karen Webb and Stephen Whitten, from Connect Base, Connor’s North Belfast Centre of Mission, gave an outline of Church Army’s Faith Suite resource.
A small gift was presented to Dr Elliott by the Dean of Connor, the Very Rev Sam Wright, Dean of Connor, as a token of thanks for his very inspiring Bible Studies. Dr Elliott commented: “I want to affirm and encourage you for a real sense that the Lord is at work within in the diocese.”
Before the conference ended with closing devotions, Bishop George said that the event had been ‘really positive and encouraging.’
“I trust and pray that some of the conversations we started here will be conversations that will carry on and we are going to be working with you to encourage those conversations to grow and develop,” the bishop said.
He thanked his staff team, the hotel staff for their hospitality, Canon McDowell for organising the worship and liturgy, and those who had provided the music. To the clergy, he said: “Thanks to each one of you for coming. It is you who have made this time together what it has been by thinking and engaging so readily in the conversations. Thank you for that and for what you are already doing.”