I’ve spent the last couple of days commuting between home and the NWBA ministers conference so a couple of reflections.
1. One speaker: the Rt Rev Chris Edmundson Bishop of Bolton drew a distinction between a balanced life and a life with rhythm. Too often we compartmentalise life into different areas and seek to give space to each one as if they are in competition. A more holistic approach would be to recognise that all have a place and that they need weaving into a rhythm of life; a rhythm of ministry and of rest, of family and of personal growth: inviting us to reflect on the rhythm of our own life and ministry.
2. One group discussion thought about the place of accountability groups, appraisals and having safe spaces to off load. The Union and Association have a variety of resources, including an appraisal scheme and ministers gatherings, but the sense was that these things are not scratching the right itch. It is a subject I might return to in a future post but an interesting feature of the conversation was the recognition that if groups of ministers want these forms of support then they also need to take responsibility for making time to be involved and sharing time to work with others.
As always, these events leave me with the question: who are ministers conferences for? There is an obvious answer of course (ministers!) but the content of these gatherings and the cross section of ministers who choose to attend make me wonder. That said, the NWBA does a good job in creating a sense of community for a couple of days rather than a sense of being a group of conference delegates and I leave with a greater feeling of connection with ministers in the Association.
I attended the NWBA Conference as you did and share your concerns. Attendance seemed to be highest among retired ministers and those in sector ministry. Ministers of large and thriving churches were noticeable by their absence.
I thought Chris Edmundson spoke well but it would have been better if he had just said the things you summarised here. In truth he spoke about a hundred other things as well and in my opinion he tried to do too much. It was good, though, to have such a thoughtful and wise speaker.
I think the value of these conferences is, as you say, in the creation of community. The tension is how we allow community to form and develop in just 48 hours without feeling we are being pressured into conforming to a party line. Our Baptist association does a good job of holding together disparate views – not an easy job among independently minded Baptists.