In April, more than 340 URC ministers gathered in Staffordshire to spend 4 days being inspired and challenged. The event replaced the annual Spring Schools run by individual synods, allowing ministers from across the entire country to meet and share.
The theme for the week was Discipleship. With 2 keynote speakers – Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Peggy Kabonde, General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia – as well as a wide range of workshops, we knew we were in for a treat. Added to that, we were led each day in gently thoughtful worship by Doug Gay, and on Wednesday evening were treated to a cabaret by comedian Paul Kerensa. It was a rich week.
There was still time, over meals and between events, to catch up with colleagues old and new. At one point it seemed as if my whole life was flashing before me as I met people I’d known through my sending church, friends from Westminster College days and from West Midlands, and others I’d met on courses and events.
Rowan Williams shared the stories of three remarkable women, Maria Skobstova, Dorothy Day and Madelein Delbrel, who defied social convention and church authority to offer radical Christian hospitality. Dr Kabonde drew on the experience of discipleship in the Zambian church to offer new perspectives. I went to a workshop on Stepwise, the training scheme that is replacing TLS but that will be much more widely accessible (and a lot cheaper).
The event was planned as a one-off, but it was so well received that there are now thoughts about doing it again one year. At a time when URC ministry is often thinly spread, and the denomination is facing great challenges, this was a really heartening and encouraging time.
More information about the event, and links to the films of the main talks, are available on the URC website