Thursday, 14 October 2010

Engaging with Word and World - CBA Ministers' Conference

This year's CBA Ministers' Conference has happened, and happened very well! High Leigh provided us with their new (for us) main conference hall which is spacious, bright and well equipped; comfortable rooms and good food.

The speakers were excellent. David Kerrigan, the General Director of BMS World Mission, spoke on the Servant Songs from Isaiah, and brought fresh insight, a personal openness, and a connectedness with life, ministry and mission. David Shosanya, was stimulating, imaginative and graciously provocative as he spoke about Word and World in continuity, and in conflict. Maggi Dawn prepared us for Advent, enlarging our boudaries, helping us to engage with art and poetry, in a way which was enriching and delightful.

We received a lot over the forty-eight hours, but some highlights. David Kerrigan reminded us of the limits as well as the goal of the preacher, to bring people to the brink of mystery whereby they cast themselves on the mercy of God. He connected us with Henri Nouwen's 'The Return of the Prodigal', the reflection on Rembrandt's painting, contrasting the two very different hands of the Father in the painting, one strong, the other tender. But also he reminded us of Nouwen's illustration of the Flying Rodleighs the trapeze artists. The point is that the flyer does nothing having launched themself, while the catcher does everything; the flyer must trust, and if he tries to do anything he falls.

David Shosanya impressed me with his passion, boldness and sheer nerve, in engaging with local and national government. He has that rare gift of being full on but also gentle and gracious.

Maggi spoke of the faith of Generation Y, those born after 1982, who don't have a hostile attitude to faith, but show mainly indifference. She spoke about 'leaving something on the doorstep' in encouraging them to take a step, and then maybe another step, and she shared some of the creative Advent initiatives that she's been part of in order to do just this.

A Question Time in the early part of Tuesday evening worked very effectively - thanks to Helen for being David Dimbleby, and an impressive panel of guests. We even had the Question Time theme music! And later in the evening Maggi's concert was all that I hoped it would be, bringing her blend of music as a singer/song-writer, with lovely spoken transitions between songs. She participated in the Communion Service, with a song she'd taught the previous evening, and concluded the conference with a sung blessing over us. It was a bit 'Wow!'

For many people the programme isn't what the conference is about but time spent together apart from the normal rhythm of ministry, talking, laughing, praying, eating and drinking. These three days each year require a lot of planning, they're totally absorbing while they happen, and I confess to breathing a sigh of relief when they're over. But they are a significant and enjoyable occasion in the life of the Association.

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