Inspiration and ideas shared at first Ministers’ Gathering

MG group shotMore than 340 United Reformed Church Ministers and Church Related Community Workers from across the denomination’s 13 synods, spent four days being inspired and challenged.

The URC’s first Ministers’ Gathering took place at Yarnfield Park Training and Conference Centre, this week (between 30 April – 3 May 2018), as part of Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today. The gathering offered ministers and CRCWs an opportunity to reflect on their own roles as disciples of Jesus and to consider what it means to serve in a Church that seeks to empower everyone in their call to and participation in missional discipleship.

Attendees benefitted from an extensive programme that included talks from the two keynote speakers: the Revd Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and current Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the Revd Dr Peggy Kabonde, General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia. Workshops explored a range of topics such as: sustaining ministering in a time of change, prayer when there doesn’t seem much point in it, discipling children and young people, intercultural discipleship, and social media . The provision of a creative space allowed colleagues to explore their creativity.

Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission) called the Ministers’ Gathering an ‘historic’ event.

‘We have never done this before,’ she said. ‘We took a bit of a risk and wondered if it was going to work. One of our key aims was to explore discipleship and the potential of Walking the Way with all the ministers together – the people who equip and enable people locally all the time. If we say Walking the Way is about renewal of discipleship and mission, then Ministers and Church Related Community Workers are absolutely key in helping to make that happen throughout the churches of our denomination. I am delighted that so many people responded and attended – and I hope that all the people who came say it was really worth coming.’

Sohail Ejaz, Minister of The Cornerstone URC, in Southend-on-Sea, spoke about how much he enjoyed the event. ‘I didn’t come with high expectations,’ he admitted. ‘But, by coming here, I can see how many people are in the URC that I haven’t met in nine years of ministry. It’s good to see we’re here, coming together, sharing my story, hearing others’ stories and the direction we’re heading.’

Hilary Smith, Minister of Parkgate and Neston URC, in Wirral, added: ‘I have learned about how different the URC is within itself. People have said things that I didn’t know happened in the URC. It’s diverse and it manages to hold itself together.’

Peggy Kabonde

Reflecting on the talks delivered by Dr Williams entitled ‘Discipleship in the Modern City’ – through the lives of three women, Maria Skobtsova, Dorothy Day and Madeleine Delbrel – and Dr Kabonde’s series on ‘The Discipleship Challenge in the 21st Century’ and ‘Pillars of Discipleship’, Ms Brienen continued: ‘I thought the two sets of talks were completely different and both completely right. Rowan Williams’ wisdom and deep thinking, his knowledge of the Church’s tradition and broad ecumenical life gave us invaluable insights into the life of discipleship. Peggy Kabonde spoke to us from a position of wise church leadership and long experience. The United Church of Zambia can be so different but there are so many things that we can connect with. You could see it in the many questions that the audience asked.’

Asked what the legacy of this gathering might be, Ms Brienen added: ‘I hope the legacy will be that people do generally feel re-energised and renewed in their ministry and in equipping people for their discipleship and, through the Ministers’ Gathering, rediscovered their joy in doing that.’

Rowan Williams with WtW banner

For those not attending, films of the six keynotes are available online. The three talks delivered by Dr Williams can be found here, session one, session two, session three. Dr Kabonde’s are available here, session one, session two, session three.