Saturday, 15 May 2010

Birmingham and Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury Districts' “Building Vision” Day

Over 300 people from across the Birmingham and Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury Districts gathered at King Edward VI School in Handsworth in Birmingham on Saturday to explore the theme of “Building Vision”.

It was an opportunity to learn and be challenged in a wide range of workshops as well as be stimulated by addresses given by Connexional Team strategic leaders Revd Mark Wakelin and Chris Elliott, as well as by Dr Anthony Reddie, a Research Fellow at Queens Foundation in Birmingham.

We were welcomed by District Chairs Revd Bill Anderson and Revd John Howard. Mark encouraged us to find out where people were going, to walk alongside them and to have the courage to be the “not yet” in the here and now, as we witness to God’s love for all. Anthony reflected on how we are all the same, created in God’s image, and yet all wonderfully diverse and unique, something that should be celebrated, but which could also bring problems if we were not aware of the risks. He also called on us to be disciples not volunteers. Chris Elliott built on this, encouraging us to move out of our comfort zones and be prophetic people and communities. She also asked the question as to whether the Church has become an exclusive club, and what we need to do to avoid that happening.

I shared in a workshop on Palestine with Ecumenical Accompanists Warren Bardsley and Shari Brown. We were able to talk about our experiences in the occupied Palestinian territory and learn more about how the creation of the separation barrier, along with other restrictions, has had such a big impact on the daily life of ordinary people.

There were over 20 other workshops, covering a wide range of subjects, providing a difficult choice for those who attended the day. In a workshop about mission I heard about how a church was now providing free tea and coffee in the village hall when the local GP branch surgery was open. They’ve quickly found that they are attracting not just those waiting to be seen by the doctor, but many others in the village who just come to meet and share with one another. Another church has established “Twilight at Costa”, where once a month on a Thursday evening, over 100 people gather for worship and fellowship in the town’s Costa Coffee shop. It has been so successful Starbuck’s have asked if a church could be set up in their shop too!

In the closing worship I reflected that the many good stories we’d heard during the day were signs of what can be achieved if instead of feeling fear and despair when we think we are at a cliff edge in the life of our church, we saw it as being a place of inspiration as well as offering many risky but exciting new opportunities.

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