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Clergy Renew Their Hope

by Michael Ford last modified 06 Jul, 2014 01:55 AM

Roughly 280 priests and deacons spent four days in Derbyshire, with a chance to think through faith and mission with top quality speakers.

Clergy Renew Their Hope

Dr Paula Gooder leads a study in 'Hope'

The Salisbury Diocesan Clergy Conference occurs every few years; the last was held in 2009. The theme for the 2014 conference was ‘God: Renewing Hope.’ Speakers included Professor David Ford, Bishop James Jones, Christian Aid’s Loretta Minghella and New Testament scholar Dr Paula Gooder.

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David Ford kicked off with an intellectual tour de force ranging from the Gospel of John to Auschwitz to finding hope in an orphanage in post-genocide Rwanda, and spoke of the need to make “daring friendships.”

The former Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, name-checked Sir Paul McCartney before speaking movingly of four people who taught him to see the truth more clearly, including a murdered teenager in Hull, a Muslim scholar from Azerbaijan and Margaret Aspinall, Chair of the Hillsborough Families’ Support Group. He noted that Margaret had taught him to be unceasing in prayer for justice, like a widow in one of Jesus’ parables.

Loretta Minghella, CEO of Christian Aid, issued a passionate plea for churches to be agents of justice, emphasising that she was listened to because millions of churchgoers support the charity. She added that churches should not be party-political, but would have to be ‘small-p-political’ in order to complete their mission.

James Wood, producer and writer of the popular BBC sitcom ‘Rev’, combined wry humour and insight during an interview with Christine Morgan, Head of Radio for BBC Religious Affairs and Ethics. He spoke of becoming immersed in the research, that the taxi-riding Archdeacon character was entirely made up, and that Liam Neeson had given his time for free, playing a tramp who is more than who he first appears.

David Runcorn, speaking on ‘Mercy’, argued that ministry is a “willed fragility”; that all have flaws which can actually serve to make the light and goodness of God visible in the lives of those who are his, illuminating the world around; and that ‘Under the mercy’, a favourite phrase of CS Lewis’ friend Charles Williams, was one to repeat again and again- both as a reminder to practice mercy and an encouragement to those who needed to know of the possibility of that.

Comedian and magician John Archer had clergy rolling in the aisles with jaw-dropping magic, comic ukulele-playing and classic humour, by turns clever, acid and near-the-knuckle.

Dr Paula Gooder conducted a trio of lively Bible studies on the theme of hope, redefining comfort as a mixture of hope and a reality check, looking beyond difficulties in the present and not just ‘believing’, but ‘believing into’ the reality of God and the Christian life.

Afternoon workshops covered everything from church life in France and Sudan to managing change, to practical art sessions. A number of delegates said it was the best clergy conference they had been to and well worth attending.

Gain a flavour of the conference via the Twitter comments at #grh14 

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