Monday, October 19, 2009

C of E Diocese in Europe Pastoral Conference

I am now enjoying a short break in my 'Godly Play' travelling. So it seems to be a convenient moment to update my blogs with news of recent activities.

The first one took place from 21st to 25th September, near Cologne, Germany. The event was the Church of England Diocese in Europe Pastoral Conference.

Over 140 Anglican clergy, from Scandinavia to the Canary Islands, Moscow to Morocco, met at Kardinal Schulte Haus, a large conference centre near Cologne that had previously been a Roman Catholic Seminary and had been commandeered during the war as a Gestapo Headquarters, in order to discuss the main conference theme: Entertaining Angels - Hospitality as Mission. The keynote speakers were Fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP, a well-known author and speaker, and a former Master of the Dominicans, and Professor Brian Thorne, a psychotherapist and lay theologian, who is also Emeritus Professor of Counselling at the University of East Anglia, founder of the Norwich Centre for Counselling Studies, and an expert in mediation and person-centred counselling. The Bible studies were given by Professor Musa Dube, a female African biblical scholar, who is also Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Botswana. The programme also included 10 workshops on topics such as liturgy, reconciliation, welcoming different cultures, expatriate ministry, ecumenical ministry, interfaith dialogue, leading Bible study in a multicultural context, ministry with the marginalized, and environmental and ecology concerns in ministry. Many of these workshops were repeated throughout the conference.

It is only the second time that all licensed C of E priests and deacons have been able to meet in the European diocese’s 29 year history. So what was a non-Conformist like me doing in a place like that and in such distinguished company?!

In their wisdom, the conference organising committee, chaired by the Suffragan Bishop for the diocese, the Right Reverend David Hamid, had seen fit to include in the programme a workshop on Godly Play, as an imaginative approach to welcoming children and engaging them in Bible stories. At a late stage in the conference preparations, the person who was due to lead the Godly Play workshop had to withdraw and I thus received a rather urgent telephone call from another member of the organising committee, the Revd. Ian Hutchinson Cervantes, Chaplain of St George's Church in Madrid, whom I knew well through the Godly Play training I had delivered over the past 5 years to the Sunday school team at that church. I was asked if I wouldn't mind standing in and leading a 90-minute Godly Play introduction to be repeated on three consecutive days throughout the conference. I accepted the invitation with rather mixed feelings but, as so often in the past, always willing to rise up to a challenge!

Some of the delegates at the conference were already familiar with Godly Play, and a few were even using the method at their English-speaking, mainly expatriate churches in Continental Europe. Of those who had no prior knowledge of Godly Play, a total of 22 clergy attended my three workshop sessions, which consisted of the usual hands-on experience of hearing a story, wondering about its meaning for them personally, and responding to it creatively and playfully through art materials and by other means.

The story of The Great Family, which includes how Abraham "entertained angels unaware", seemed to fit in well with the conference theme. Another story I chose was the Parable of the Great Pearl.

There was lively discussion and plenty of questions as a result of the workshop and a number of clergy said that they were seriously considering requesting training in this approach for their Sunday school staff at their churches in several European cities and towns.

A week after the event, I received the following thankyou note from the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese in Europe:
Dear David
Many thanks for your leadership at our clergy conference last week. I have received very positive feedback from the workshops. I hope you enjoyed your days with us, as we enjoyed your presence.
With my prayers and blessings,
† David Hamid
More photos of the conference are available here and here.

No comments: