“Thank you for an amazing, God-centred day at #TogetherinFaith2018. I’ve left with a heart heavy with inspiration and determination!” (Gemma Burton)
“Great inspirational speaker Mark Russell from Church Army ..fantastic God centred day.” (Samantha Gill)
“Still buzzing from a great conference today! Met lots of wonderful and inspirational people. Lots to process and take back to @allsaintsilkley Thank you to all who made it happen.” (Alice Carr)
“.. a fantastic uplifting and affirming day #TogetherinFaith2018 (Rachael on Twitter)”
There were warm words of gratitude and appreciation shared on social media from many of the 900 delegates who came to the first ever Diocese of Leeds Lay Conference, Together in Faith, at the Harrogate Convention Centre on Saturday 9 June. Many described the day as ‘inspirational’, ‘affirming’ and ‘amazing’
The day was packed with inspirational talks and workshops with a team of national speakers travelling to Harrogate to lead around 24 different seminars on topics ranging from ‘God and Science’ (from Denis Alexander) and ‘Wellbeing, mental health and making a difference’(Andy Parnham) to ‘Social Engagement and Sharing your Faith’ (Paul Hackwood) or ‘seeing God at work’ (Neil Hudson and guests).
Leading the main sessions were inspiring key-note speakers, Mark Russell, CEO of the Church Army, and the Bishop of Dorking, the Rt Revd Jo Bailey Wells who talked on ‘God’s call’ in the morning and ‘Prayer for all seasons’ in the afternoon.
A wide range of some 40 stalls filled the vast ‘Market Place’ hall where refreshments were served and delegates could find out about the work of the diocese as well as other local and national Christian organisations and charities.
A new online learning portal was unveiled by the Director of Lay Training, Hayley Matthews with more support and recognition for a wider range of lay ministries both inside and outside the church.
And although clerical collars were to be seen, particular amongst the welcoming party which included the Bishop’s staff , the day was predominantly lay led.
Worship began and ended the day with music led by the St Mark’s Harrogate music group and a team of lay worship leaders. Hosting the opening event were Matthew Ambler and Jane Evans, lay members of the Diocesan Board.
Opening the Conference, Bishop Nick challenged the members of churches right across the diocese, “What expectations do you bring with you? .. we’ve got to be open to surprise... My question is, do you expect God to speak to you? Are you open to hear the call of God, perhaps in a fresh way? Are you willing to see the face of Christ in one another?”
Mark Russell, in a lively and inspirational address called on delegates to “Go where Jesus would go.” “You are the only Bible most people will ever read”, he challenged delegates. “You are the fifth Gospel”.
Concluding a packed day, Director of Ministry and Mission, and chair of the conference organising group, Canon Andrew Norman gave the gathering a chance to reflect on their response to the day. “Are you hope filled as a result of today? I hope so but let’s be alert to how we are feeling and what we take home from today. There may be a sense of discomfort because of what God has been saying to you today”
Bishop Paul Slater gave an overview of the Diocesan Strategy for the next six years which he said “demonstrates the enormous importance that we are putting on the role of lay people and the desire that we have to support you and those you worship with as you seek to discern your vocation and what following Chris means for you. .. we want to put resources into making this a reality.”
And in his conclusion, Bishop Nick summed up the day. “Keep the faith simple – are you loving God with your heart your mind and your strength and loving your neighbour as yourself? …. Go away and talk to one another, to your friends, you families and your churches about what has grasped your spirit. Take responsibility for your discipleship and for your learning. Join the online learning community, Take responsibility. Don’t wait for the vicar to tell you.”