Here is a report of
our conference in 2012 entitled
Christian Ministry in Tomorrow’s
The Community of the Resurrection,
was the theme of the Society's most recent conference, held
from Monday 3rd to Friday 7th September 2012 at the College
of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, UK. It was
a new departure for us in that it was aimed specifically at
have recently begun a public ministry, either lay or ordained,
or who are students preparing for ministry. This meant that
a number of those taking part, students in particular, were
unable to meet the entire cost of the conference and travel.
Thanks to the generosity of the Society's members and a number
of national Churches we were able to offer a substantial bursary
to anyone needing it. We are very grateful to all who contributed.
The result was that more than sixty people
were able to attend, from the Uuited Kingdom, Finland, Greenland,
Germany, South Africa, Tanzania, Hungary, the Czech Republic,
Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Belgium, Estonia and Ireland. We were
a diverse group, aged between 17 and 70, and we soon discovered
that whatever our background we all shared a deep desire to
be effective servants of Jesus Christ in our own particular
contexts and that we had a lot to learn from each other.
Each day included
a creative mix of worship, Bible study, presentations, small
group work, recreation and good food.
of Lutheran Morning Prayer, Anglican Midday Eucharist, Evening
Worship with the members of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection,
and informal Night Prayers ensured that everything we did was
supported and sustained by communal prayer. The monastic community
was very generous in providing us with our own chapel as well
as inviting us to gather with them in theirs. Most services
included a homily and hymns and songs from a variety of liturgical
and confessional traditions.
THE BIBLE STUDY
morning we were guided through the scriptures by Dr Margaret
Baxter. She took as her theme 'Adam in Worship and the World'.
She started with the Qumran Community's Rule which says that
the teacher of the community had to 'instruct the upright in
the knowledge of the Most High and teach the wisdom of the sons
of heaven ... For God has chosen them for an eternal covenant
and all the glory of Adam shall be theirs.' In three challenging
and exciting sessions she helped us to explore the idea of an
'eternal covenant' which transcended all the other Biblical
Covenants, to examine the Adam story through the worship and
traditions of the Old Testament, and to understand a little
of how the New Testament writers understood the 'old' and the
'new' Adams. Adam's original task was to hold all things together
in harmony, she said. That is what Christ as the New Adam does,
and what we who are 'new' Adams incorporated in him, are called
to do as people of the 'eternal covenant' which is based on
loving kindness (chesed) leading to right decisions (mispat)
leading to righteousness (sedaqa) leading to peace (shalom).
'And,' she concluded, 'the glory of Adam shall be ours.'
Much of what
she shared can be found in her book, 'Creation: A Biblical Vision
for the Environment' (2010) T&T Clark, London. To catch
a glimpse of Dr Barker at work click here to look at the four
daily bulletins we published on YouTube during the conference.
Her Bible studies were greatly appreciated, especially by those
of us from Central Europe and Africa for whom her approach was
offered insights from their own experience and areas of expertise
to enable us to explore all kinds of issues that will affect
us as we move on in Christian ministry.
We live in a context of rapid
socio-economic and technological change. We can all feel the
forces of change that are working on us now and bringing tomorrow’s
world into being.
But what will that world be like? What
value systems will be at work in it? What will
be the relevance of the Christian Gospel and the ministry of
Word and Sacrament in that world? How will
the Gospel best be communicated in a world where there are so
many new forms of connectivity? Where will
Christian ministers find the support and resources they will
If we are to confront questions like these
we need to start thinking seriously about aspects
of the contemporary world that may not normally form part of
conventional theological education. As theologians it will be
essential to recognise and be open to the enormous
range of expertise and resources available to us in the many
communities to which we belong. The next generation of ministers
can support and resource one another by sharing
experiences and creating networks across denominational
and national boundaries with people having shared interests
1. 'Visions, Values and Changing Mindsets'
Monica Schofield made the opening presentation and provided
the context for the entire conference. It
is difficult to look to the future, she said, without some trepidation.
If we human beings continue our industrial and economic activity
in the way we are today it is certain that life as we know it
on this planet will be in a very precarious state within a generation.
Thinkers in the business community have
put together a vision - 'Vision 2050' - setting out a pathway
which, if followed by business, government and every individual,
might enable us by 2050 to achieve a world in which ‘9
billion people live well within the limits of the planet’.
Ms Schofield believes that theologians and church communities,
if they are aware of the issues involved, can play an important
part in helping to bring about the kinds of changes in attitude
towards sharing resources that will be required.
To see a summary of her presentation
2. 'Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry
in Tomorrow's World'
Dr Christina Baxter, until recently Principal of St John's
College, Nottingham, UK spoke from her experience of the importance
of helping people prepare for ministry in ways that will give
them the theological, educational and personal skills necessary
for them if they are to engage effectively in social contexts
that today we can neither imagine nor understand. In
Europe we are facing secularism and a much more assertive expression
of atheism. On the whole, our media take up an aggressive stance
in relation to religious communities. And ‘opinion formers’
distance themselves from the religious faith of their childhood.
But, paradoxically, as all this is going on the secular world
is full of uncertainties, forebodings about the future, and
demonstrates itself incapable of articulating credible answers
to the challenges the world faces. So Dr Baxter shared with
us her understanding of the priorities to be addressed in helping
to prepare people for ordination and lay ministry, and outlined
some of the dangers to be faced and opportunities to be grasped.
Dr Baxter's presentation can be seen here.
3. 'How to be a Minister Before and After
the Socio-Political Transition in Hungary'
Bishop Fabiny spoke about some of the
traps that await unwary ministers, and of his own role in caring
for ministers and their families.
You can find his presentation here.
'Bonhoeffer on Life Together in Tomorrow's World'
Bishop Martin Lind, former Bishop
of Linkoping in the Church of Sweden, focused
on the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He reminded us that,
as a young Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich had visited
the Anglican Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, where
we were meeting. Being a passionate contextual theologian, Bishop
Lind started with an account of Bonhoeffer's life and some of
the key moments that shaped his theological explorations in
Doctrine, Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion. He then drew
out eight points to challenge his audience of new and potential
Christian ministers. Bishop Lind said, 'Bonhoeffer
forces us to reflect on our self-understanding as human beings
and as Christians. His view on man is challenging in its naked
radicality. Bonhoeffer can guide us both as regards the creation
of ‘life together’ and as regards the commitment
to live in the world, given by God, loved by God and reconciled
Bishop Lind's presentation can be found
THE SMALL GROUPS
the conference paricipants, including the presenters and staff,
were divided into groups which met at regular intervals throughout
the conference. This enabled five or six people to get to know
one another quite well, and care had been taken to ensure that
members for whom English was not their first language could
be with others able to explain things to them and help them
explore some of the issues being raised. We can't say what happened
in the groups, but we can report that whenever they met there
was always a buzz of chatter and plenty of laughter.
Each day some free time was built into
the programme so that people could explore the local area, enjoy
a guided tour of the Community of the Resurrection's buildings
and extensive grounds, or simply spend time reflecting together
on what was going on.
On the Wednesday there was an outing to
Bolton Abbey and its Priory Church where Christian worship has
been offered continually since 1154. We were welcomed by Canon
George Moffatt, the Vicar, and then Christopher Armstrong gave
a brief description of the buildings and their history.
that we enjoyed a picnic and walks along the river and in the
rolling countryside, when we could compare notes about the conference
so far, and about what we were experiencing and learning.
The visit ended with Anglican Evensong
in the Priory Church. It was the perfect end to a wonderful
visit, and the weather could not have been better.
has something of a reputation for good food, and were not disappointed.
The meals were substantial and varied.
The Conference Dinner on the Thursday
evenings was a splendid affair. When it was over thanks were
expressed to the organising committee, to those who had acted
as conference chaplains, and to all who behind the scenes had
contributed to the conference's evident success.
A SHARED EXPERIENCE
Alongside our own conference members of
the Anglo-Nordic-Baltic Theological Conference were holding
their own meeting with a parallel, overlapping programme entitled
‘Life Together: Being Human in Tomorrow’s World.'
They shared in our worship, recreation and meals, but had their
own presentations and group meetings. It worked very well and
it was soon quite hard to work out who was ANBTC and who was
Most Rev Michael Jackson (left), Archbishop of Dublin and
Chairman of the Anglo-Nordic-Baltic Theological Conference,
co-chaired with the Rev Alex Faludy a combined
session which brought the two conferences together.
In a masterly summing up Archbishop Jackson
said that two important themes had emerged for him. First, a
change of focus for all Christians, lay people as well as ministers,
away from the congregation and into the boardrooms - something,
he said, we had not quite expected. Second, a rediscovery of
the theology of friendship, and that was an area where every
Christian person can make a contribution. He warned against
the danger of leaving a conference such as ours, which had been
challenging and exciting in all kinds of revolutionary ways
and simply returning to the old ways. Many of us see ourselves
as having 'ordinary' roles in the world and the Church and are
tempted to ask why God would want to use us in new and sometimes
In this context, the Rev Alex Faludy reminded
us of the importance of the language, terms and vocabulary that
we use when we talk to other people. The work of Christian ministry,
he said, in the coming decades will be a continual one of translation
of our ideas and thoughts about such things as redemption and
restitution into concepts and language that the world can understand.
A LAST WORD
"It was really wonderful because
my group was quite colourful, a lot of languages, a lot of nations
and a lot of different Christian traditions, and we could pray,
we could sing and we could talk together."
"What I'm going to take back to my
church is that it's all about relationships. Until I meet a
Roman Catholic priest or an Orthodox minister I make generalisations
about them. But here I've discovered that we are all Christians
together and we can love one another."
"It has been a new experience for
me. Here we are from all different countries and we are all
"I feel that I have been inspired
by the Bible study especially, and shall use what I have learned
here to face the challenge of 2050 when I return to Africa."
"It's been such a good experience
to meet people who may be from different churches, but we all
share one faith. It's so good to hear what other people think
and to ask questions together and to pray together. It's been
very enriching for me and it's certainly something I would do
again - I hope I'll be invited again."
"I was very excited to have Holy
Communion together, and to have participated in the Bible studies,
for example. We don't really do it like that at home. I also
enjoyed praying together, and I think that God united us in
his love, and that's the most important thing."
Those are just a few of the comments made
by members from Eastern Europe, England, Germany, Romania and
It seems clear that the conference has
achieved its aim of encouraging at least this group from among
the next generation of Christian ministers to share
experiences and create networks across denominational
and national boundaries. We hope that in the years to come they
will continue to support and resource one another.
If you would like to
read about some of our previous conferences, click here.