Last week was our annual ministry school, which was about letting go. We had a great programme, designed by Alec Clarke and Benjamin Brock Smith. I led some Bible studies and we had input from Chris Holmes and Kevin Ward. We had speakers from the 5:30 service at St. Matts and from Urban Vision, challenging us with a couple of different ways of being church. At the end of each day Phil Clark led us in kind of examen, looking back and drawing together common threads. We acknowledged the great changes we are facing as the Anglican Church in Southland and Otago, noting the obvious statistical and demographic facts that we have lived with for years now. But it wasn't a depressing or negative time; far from it. The mood of the school was upbeat, buoyant even. We were hopeful and excited about the changes which lie on our very near horizon.
We are in a transition in our diocese, with the decay of our old processes all around us, but also with the hints of the new beginning to appear, sometimes in surprising places. We have a superb team of clergy and lay leaders and the procedural and infrastructural changes which might help them forward the mission of the church in surprising new ways are far more complete than I had expected them to be at this stage. I talked about my own role as bishop and about how far I saw that extending and what I thought was required of me over the next two or three years. I left with energy and confidence that we will handle the changes which lie ahead of us.
I went straight from the ministry school to the national interfaith conference which was held in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. I had never been into a Mormon church before, and I was curious. It was, on the inside, much as you might expect from looking at the outside: lots of straight lines, everything clean and neat and well made. There was a built in data projector and a nifty central pulpit with an electric height adjustment device. With a huge gymnasium and a multitude of small meeting rooms the complex was perfect for the conference, and the Mormons had, in a humbling show of generosity, let the organisers use it for free and had postponed their own Sunday morning worship to accommodate us. On Sunday I had the novelty of sitting there in a service of worship where the music was led by Colin Gibson on piano and the Hare Krishna group on guitar and drums, though not at the same time. Lord Leslie Griffiths, was the keynote speaker and there was the usual round of breakout groups and workshops. It was a good conference, but I must say that after our ministry school, anything would have seemed anticlimactic.
So today, on a calm clear, warm and sunny winter's day, it was wonderful to be back on my bike and walking the Otago coast and thinking on things past and things to come.