Diocesan Conference 2023
More than 150 people attended our diocesan conference last Saturday and the energy and engagement during the morning was amazing!
This year’s theme was all about ‘welcome/croeso’ and how it is a key aspect of our diocesan vision and essential for growth.
The morning started with worship, then conference business began. There were four motions put forward – environmental policy, renewing our link with the Highveld, conference membership and conference format – which were all passed. There was an update on finances from DBF chair Peter Lea and a bunch of flowers was presented to Paulette Brown who is stepping down as deputy chair of the DBF after many years in the role.
Delegates were able to access more than a dozen ‘stalls’ during the break, including Christians Against Poverty, A Rocha and Hope for Justice, to name but a few. There was a real buzz of excitement as people were keen to find out how these organisations could help deliver on the five branches of our diocesan vision.
Bishop Cherry’s Conference Address explored the theme of ‘welcome’ from three different perspectives - What is it. Why do it. And how does it look.
In her Address, Bishop Cherry shared personal experiences while highlighting her message.
She said: “If we want to be truly welcoming to anyone who turns up at our doors, then we not only need to accept them as they are, we need to take care to treat them as children of God, whatever they look like and however they present….
“To be a truly welcoming church means creating a space so that newcomers, strangers, seekers can feel and know that they belong….
“Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for all are equally loved and redeemed in the sight of God, all are welcome to sit and eat in his house, at his table. God welcomes stranger as well as friend into the body of Christ.”
You can read the Address in full here
Full version of Love Bade Me Welcome
Following on from Bishop Cherry’s Address, there was an opportunity to explore the practicalities of ‘welcome’.
Archdeacon Stella Bailey, Archdeacon Ian Rees, Diocesan Secretary Isabel Thompson and Church Resources Officer Zoe Ward delivered a ‘hands-on’ session to focus our thoughts on what welcome really means.
Archdeacon Ian opened the session by reminding us how the theme of ‘welcome’ runs through our diocesan vision.
He said: “Our welcome for, and of, others is absolutely key in helping to grow our churches and to encourage people to explore the Christian faith….”
“That is why, in our invitation and in our welcome, we must be bold and we must be confident…
“A culture of invitation and welcome matched with an authenticity that displays our belief that we have something to offer that is attractive and relevant, reflects a culture of confidence that our churches can grow both in number and in our relationships with God and with other people and that they can, and will, offer a presence that enhances our communities and the lives of people everywhere….”
Archdeacon Stella looked at the practicalities of welcome and talked about ‘first impressions.”
The delegates were then invited to take part in a workshop session before Archdeacon Stella continued with the importance of getting the ‘welcome right’ when people come to our churches.
Archdeacon Ian spoke about services and how they can be confusing, explaining that “in our worship we need to be constantly aware of what we’re doing and how it is impacting people.”
Zoe Ward introduced a section about the biggest opportunity we have to welcome and introduce new people to faith being through Life Events – baptisms, weddings and funerals and also festivals.
She said: “This is an opportunity to serve all of our community – a chance for intergenerational bonding with the passing on of our traditions and faith. We need to be ready. We need to take time to plan these services, to be intentional, to offer our best, and to make sure that anyone who attends leaves with a feeling of connection and of hope which might call them back…perhaps every year, perhaps more often.”
Diocesan Secretary Isabel Thompson then introduced a second workshop session, before speaking about the use of Welsh in our churches.
She suggested: “In using some Welsh language in our services and around our churches, in signs and posters and service sheets. we are helping to show that we part of the modern culture of Wales and that is a sign of welcome.”
She concluded the session by saying: “Our faith is so much about relationships and relationships lie at the heart of so many themes of invitation and welcome. The first impressions and the ongoing invitation of welcome can be expressed in a variety of ways. Welcome goes beyond your words. How you express welcome in your actions and how you set yourselves up as a community explicitly put into action what you say. Welcome does not happen by accident, but requires you to think intentionally about the different phases in which people encounter your community. Welcome requires planning and reviewing as part of the rhythm of your church life. Think of the welcome that enabled you to become part of the church. Think of the welcome that enables you to continue to be part of the church and think of the welcome that will help others feel they belong to your church."