With wonderful worship, fantastic facilities and insightful discussions, this year’s diocesan conference was another great success.
Held at the newly-built Monmouth Comprehensive School, almost 200 people filled the auditorium to engage with a packed agenda.
Archbishop John Davies received a warm-welcome as he ‘stepped-in’ to preside over proceedings as the bishop-elect isn’t yet in post.
In his opening remarks, Archbishop John, reminded us that next year is the centenary of the Church in Wales and that 1921 would be the centenary of the founding of the Diocese of Monmouth. Both presented a “good opportunity to pause and reflect with importance and great hope on the words of Jesus from the end of the Gospel according to St Matthew” He encouraged us to go ‘back to basics – go and make disciples.” In challenging times, we need to remember the words of Isaiah – ‘Here am I – send me’. Archbishop John added: “With vision, joy and commitment – (‘here am I – send me’) – we will overcome the challenges.”
Worship was led by Reverend Catherine Haynes and others from the Monmouth Ministry Area – including a small-string section.
Following conference business, Archdeacon Sue Pinnington gave an update on the Evangelism Bid and introduced a draft diocesan strategy, of which the bid would be an integral part.
She explained that after much consultation, “what would make a difference, what will make a difference, to the growth of evangelism in the diocese of Monmouth is people. We need to create a network throughout the diocese of people who are trained and have experience in evangelism, are instigators of fresh expressions of church and of pioneer ministry.”
It is anticipated that the bid will be submitted in Spring next year.
Following on from this, Ven Sue, explained that, “although the evangelism fund is great opportunity, it is only part of what @Mission Monmouth is about. The bid must be an integral part of our diocesan strategy. It needs to be the prism through which we act and work. We have been busy working on a new strategy that embraces @MissionMonmouth and a love without limit.
“The draft strategy highlights the shared desire of the evangelism bid and our desire as a diocese to be an agent of transformation under our 3 key themes – transforming communities; transforming lives and transforming churches.
“Christ came as an agent of change. After his ascension he sent upon the fledgling church the holy spirit; the wind of change and the fire of transformation.”
She ended by thanking the people in our congregations “who are being a little bit brave, a little bit creative, a little bit challenging, a little bit radical and a lot passionate and a lot hardworking continuing to grow the kingdom. Let’s not forget why we are doing this … so more and more people can encounter the transformational love of God – that we will be transformed as we deepen our own understanding of God.”
Guest speaker, Dr Christina Baxter, continued the theme of the day by talking about the marks of the disciple. Discipleship is “radical” because of the nature of who Jesus is and we should have the ‘vocabulary’ to speak of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian and we should be ‘intentional’.
She started with a simple definition of discipleship, as defined by the Anglican Consultative Council: “To be a disciple is to follow and the nature of that discipleship is defined by the one who we follow.”
She continued, that exploration of discipleship over a period of time can be explained in three stages:
- Initiation, the beginning of life as a Christian – many people nowadays come to Christian faith from a place of almost absolute ignorance and sometimes absolute ignorance. When a person explores the Christian faith, how do we help them to understand what leading a Christian life is?
- Period of maturation – period of becoming a mature Christian. We’ve been Christian for a while – we have come to a place where we are still learning, but there is a depth and maturity in our Christian faith.
- State of wisdom – we have been Christians for a long time and have God working in us. We are able to respond Christianly, even in uncertain circumstances.
Dr Christina explained that our state is “clearly marked when we are dying – knowing how to die and let go is a lifelong lesson as a Christian.” We need to recognise where we are on our own discipleship journey and be confident and rooted in our belief. She added: “Discipleship is about being transformed individually, communally, and being agents of transformation in the wider world.”
Dr Paul Glover, who retired as Diocesan Secretary in September was thanked by Peter Lea, Chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance and Archbishop John for all his hard work, particularly around the Ministry Share Scheme.
See you next year!