CAPTION: Worshipping together in the tabernacle

‘Soul food’ at clergy conference

Posted: 12th September, 2017

Bishop Robert with keynote speaker Lord Hennessey a former Times journalist

Over 250 clergy  from across our diocese spent four days at the ‘Alive to God’ clergy conference held at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester.

As well as worship, bible study and time to meet fellow clergy, those attending heard from keynote speakers and took part in workshops led by a variety of people from around the UK. The conference and its schedule focussed on our diocesan vision to Grow in Prayer, Make New Disciples and Serve with Joy.

Several of our clergy shared their reflections after the conference. Vicar of Cullompton, Edward Hobbs said: “It was great to be envisioned in ministry, with an impassioned address from Bishop Robert to be reaching outside of our comfort zones, and connecting with the vast majority of people across our county who don’t yet attend our churches, and to be stimulated theologically. I particularly enjoyed the talk from Mike Lloyd (Principal of Wycliffe Hall) on the confidence we can have in the Christian message. And then last but not least it was great to spend some time with


The conference ended with a service of anointing

others from across our huge and disparate diocese. We rarely all come together, let alone with the time and space to really talk and encourage each other, so it was great to spend time with brothers and sisters.”

Ruth Hansford, Team Vicar in the Northmoor Team Ministry, said: “Jane Williams’ daily reflections on the Psalms drew us with gentleness and humour back to the importance of our lives and our ministry being focused on the person and purposes of God. The key note speakers expanded on this theme looking at how, in our prayer and ministry, we need to be attentive to the reality of the people and situations we are dealing with (unclouded by our assumptions and prejudices)…. . The clergy conference provided ideas and resources aplenty, but also reminded us that first we need to stop, listen, and be attentive: to what is going on around us; to where people are in their lives and understanding of God; and to what God, through his Holy Spirit, is calling us to do in our lives and our churches to tell people that God loves them.

“I have come back renewed in my energy and commitment to work with those within and across our local churches to figure out, in each place and situation, how we can best do that.”

Vicar of Salcombe, Daniel French was particularly touched by worship held in the marquee. He said: “How wonderful it was to say evening prayer in the marque tent with so many fellow colleagues!  It felt somewhat Biblical – like the tabernacle in Exodus.”

He added: “I believe something like the clergy conference is an essential resource to draw us into a healthier more resilient place. Aside from speakers and workshops, meeting other clergy socially is a really important in a diocese so vast. It is good soul food. I left wanting more and reminded of Bishop Robert’s opening charge to ‘love our folk’.”

And finally Dave Appleby from Plymstock reflected: “Had it all been worth the hard work put in to organise a conference for one of the largest dioceses in the country? Undoubtedly. ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often’, Bishop Robert reminded us. As the Church of England and the Diocese of Exeter continue to move into all that is before us, we must remain ‘Alive to God’ in prayer, discipleship, joyful service, filled with the Spirit.”