MCCN The Hayes Conference 2010

Conference 2010
17-19 November

The Hayes Conference Centre


A longer report of the conference is available as a PDF.

(This is no longer available on-line.
If you would like a copy please email: web@methodistcitycentrenetwork.org.uk )

Wednesday

A welcome from Mark Pengelly The conference started in the late afternoon and after a welcome from Mark Pengelly (our treasurer) standing in for the Coordinator, we split up into groups to teel each other about ourselves before responding to three questions on how town and city ministry different from urban ministry, large inspirational congrgations, and the opportunities opened up by our Arminian theology.

In the evening Pete Hancock spoke to us about reaching the unchurched and RUN (Reaching the Unchurched Network) which had operated for 15 years until November 2009. Pete addressed the issue of the missing segment in church and introduced the idea of a wrong-shaped church and suggested we might be telling the story in the wrong way as reasons why certain people did not come.

Pete Hancock In the final part of the session Pete set out some conditions, some challenges and some graces.

  • Conditions: There must be community, we must have a focus and there must be connectivity.
  • The challenges are to moral certainty, to ecclesiological presupposition, and to personal security.
  • There are times when we experience the grace of God in divine moments, in frontier spiritual experience and when we enjoy being part of a group and life is shown up in a different light.


Thursday

Pete Phillips In the two morning sessions Pete Philips under the title Embodied mission in a digital environment. This was wide-ranging and erudite and took its trajectory from the prologue to St John's Gospel (1:1-16). We were given facts and figures about the digital world in which we live with some emphasis on social networks and communication. He illustrated his message with videos.

The journey set out in the prologue to St John's gospel is a journey into physicality to reveal the divine in which the embraces the world from creation to salvation to witness. The Word does not judge, but enters the world and makes the divine known. God’s mission is our mission: embodied mission in a digital world.

Our faith is a 'somisthetic' faith – the body or the senses are involved. A virtual church is virtually always supplementary. A 'head' or metaphysical faith does not express Christianity in its full sense, it is only partial. Nevertheless, we must face the world and be digitally aware, communicate digitally, and have a digital presence which seeks to transform.

Lucy Winkett In the afternoon Lucy Winkett, who has recently moved from St Paul's Cathedral to become rector at St James's Church, Piccadilly, and it was her new context inspired her title: 'It's like Piccadilly Circus round here...' – where is the God of peace in a chaotic world?

We, the church, are living in a half-changed world grieving for a fantasy – a time when we knew where we were and what we had to do, when things were simpler, fixed and slow moving. Our world is half-changed because we are not sure what has been thrown out and what is being kept in.

Once religion told us about the natural world, was responsible for education, welfare and medical care. Now religion touches few people's lives. Increasingly people believe but do not belong. The church has lost its place, it has been marginalised. As the church we have a choice between Augustine and Aquinas. Augustine: the cities of this world are not redeemable and we should concentrate on the saving of souls. If we follow Aquinas then we serve the city, do not judge, but become involved.

We need to rediscover a confidence in our liturgy, our own public prayers. We need to study through reading, through exploring our local context. Perhaps we should think of the church as a school, offering learning, where people join, people leave.

As more live and work alone what does it mean for a church that privileges face-to-face communication. We need to hold events as well as having an on-line presence. Engage and have a sense of why we are engaging. We need to find the poorest and become involved in washing their feet.

We need to cultivate silence, commit to relationships, reflect divine love in a commercial, sexuality city. We should do this with our shoes off – we walk on holy ground – God is there, we need to get out of his way.

Phil Summers In the second session of the afternoon with the title Telling the Gospel for the lost generations Phil Summers (managing without his partner, Peter Moreton, who couldn't be with us) told us about Applecart, an arts project which uses storytelling, music, drama and visual arts explore the richness of the Gospel with a twenty-first century audience. And, like Brecht, engage the power of the theatre to be didactic, take multiple points of view, cover all ages, break open hearts and minds, and outrage. Applecart offers a good night out (usually in a pub), using colloquial rather than churchy language, creating a complex, layered and possible difficult experience that is engaging – a place and time where people hear the Gospel.

Phil admitted that in trying to talk about Applecart he had probably failed. In order to appreciate and understand what it is about 'you've got to experience it'.

General Meeting

In the evening we held our General Meeting at which we approved a constitution and elected the members of our Coordinating Group.

It was agreed a letter about protecting the special nature of city centre ministry, and preparation for working in city centre churches and projects would be sent to stationing in the autumn of 2010, after further discussion at meeting next year.

Ian Serjeant (Conservation Officer in the Property Office) presented a brief report on the the research of Angela Connelly into the Forward Movement and development of Central Halls. (This is no longer available on-line.
If you would like a copy please email: web@methodistcitycentrenetwork.org.uk )


Friday

The first session of the morning started after breakfast when Eunice Attwood (Deacon in Newcastle and currently Vice President of the Methodist Conference) spoke to us on Sex in the City. What she had to say arose out of her involvement with a project (GAP) in Newcastle that works with prostitutes. She began by referring to the Derby Resolutions saying that we tend to focus on what they say about same-sex relationships and fail to celebrate joy of sexuality while recognising that promiscuity is unacceptable.

Eunice set out the economics of lap and pole dancing and explain that for some women it is a safe, easy way to earn money, but for others who are more desperate financially, supporting a family, or feeding a drug habit, for example it is more difficult and can lead on to private sexual encounters and prostitution.

The young women who are prostitutes often say that if they had been helped when they were younger they wouldn't have ended up in prostitution. Many were sold into the business by someone in their own family. Most want to stop doing it.

The GAP project asked some of the young women involved to take photographs of places which had figured in their history in prositution. Eunice showed us a video in which one of the young women talked about what had happened to her prompted by a series of her photographs. 'I see what you can't see.' Most of the places looked quite ordinary, houses, cafés, ...

Eunice Attwood and Mark Pengelly Eunice is chaplain to the 'girls' in GAP. The workers in GAP are pleased to be working with he church and welcome the support of the church.

Paul Smith and Eunice Attwood After morning coffee we gathered for Holy Communion which brought the conference to a close. Paul Smith (Plymouth) presided and Eunice preached a sermon on the gospel story of Jesus sending the disciples out in a boat and then coming to them, walking on the water, lifting Peter up when his faith failed and he sank as he tried to walk on he water, and then the calm that followed when they were all in the boat. She used each stage in the story as a metaphor for situations we encounter in our mission.


There is a list of links to on-line digital resources mentioned at the conference and some presentations


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21 August 2015