We met together in person at The Hayes in Derbyshire as hugely diverse group of people. Some of us work in local ministry, others work for organisations that support local churches. We included national leaders and global theologians. We travelled from across the country bringing a breadth of churchmanship and a variety of approaches to worship. And yet the well curated space brought a sense of togetherness that grew as we spent time with each other. We recognised our connectedness through the last 18 months of pandemic by sitting together in lament with Dr Carla Grosch Miller’s help on the first evening in the chapel.
I was asked to act as listening officer for the 48 hours. So what did we hear?
We heard the importance of listening and the joy found in togetherness. Our first speaker, Dr Sanjee Perera’s, poetic prose challenged us to be bold and believe in the impossible. Sanjee gave us hope that the first lesson of the wilderness is our nomadic belonging to God and each other. Not only that but a reminder that we belong to the disreputable, the marginalised and the rejected.
On the Wednesday morning Dr Harvey Kwiyani connected migration and diversity in the hope of being one body. He left us with some powerful questions. “who is making you think about new things? Read new books, talk about new topics?”
On the final morning Archbishop Nikitas taught us that togetherness in mission starts when we treat each other as friends – this brings growth.
We heard the importance of listening and being together through 25 twelve-minute TED-style talks where connection with the world around us, with others and with God were explored. This was hugely powerful. We immersed ourselves in the words, pictures, stories, pain and injustice even joy! From this rich variety of input I asked “what should we take with us?” My answer, these three things:
Relationships; May we grow what has begun, may we be friends, may we find new voices to influence and shape us.
Listening; May we listen to ourselves, hear our prejudices, hear our hurt, express our lament. May we listen to others, those we may have previously unconsciously ignored, those whose story may make us feel uncomfortable. May we listen to our communities to hear their stories, to hear where God is at work, to hear what we are called to do . May we listen to God, hear the spirit’s call, feel the spirit’s breath.
Togetherness; May we learn to live as guest. Giving power away the marginalised, may we be courageous as we stand up and speak out for others, may embody shalom.