This year’s Clergy Conference brought together our leaders for a time of reflection, sharing stories of God’s work in their lives, and prayer. All three days were set aside for them to meet with Bishop Bill and hear from one another. The conference’s main theme was finding common ground with others, both believers and unbelievers, in order to glorify Christ through our conversations, more specifically through the personal stories we share about His influence in our lives. The three-day conference brought this theme home through Bishop Bill’s teachings, in discussions, testimonies, and ministry. Clergy were able to share their stories of what God was doing in the midst of them.
They were also encouraged to see themselves as part of God’s story in Jesus, beginning on The Feast of the Ascension, which took place on the first night of the conference. Bishop Bill preached and celebrated Communion, with Canons Susan Skillen and Andrea Mueller serving at the altar by his side. He taught about the Ascension’s importance in establishing our position in God, not only as redeemed souls through Christ’s Resurrection but as enthroned human beings, reigning with Him from Heaven. He asked whether we are living into the truth of the Ascension, and if we truly understand what it means for us. On Ascension Day we were glorified in Jesus, lifted up into the Heavenly places above every power that may stand against us. Though fully realized on the Last Day, we rule and reign through Christ now, who rules and reigns in Heaven. This causes us to demonstrate the ascended Jesus in our lives as the Spirit through us brings the reality of the reign of Christ to earth.
The second day brought a mix of teaching, discussion, prayer, worship, and ministry time. The theme of Conversations on Common Ground fueled the first session of teaching, which encouraged this engagement with others over our own personal “Gospel story”. Clergy broke into small groups, wrote down their own stories of how Jesus had transformed their lives in specific situations, and then shared them with their group. The world’s own stories are many: stories of claiming identity apart from God; giving in to money, sex, and power; and making individual paths to worldly success. Throughout the day, Bishop Bill touched on how our stories are radically different and how to share them, particularly in a post-Christian and Hyper-sexualized culture.
The afternoon brought a series of encouraging stories from around the diocese, two of which were of particular note: Christopher Hatton, pastor of Trinity Church in Bridgewater, was licensed as a lay catechist due to his congregation’s desire to work together with The Rev. Leah Turner and the New Hope Anglican community. Their partnership is an exciting step in the life of the diocese. Another milestone was the confirmation of Dr. Abraham Chan, a professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and former Lutheran minister. He, along with a large group of Chinese Christians, were moved to support and work with our church plant in Biddeford, ME, led by The Rev. Cinnamon Creedon. A movement grew in Hong Kong and the surrounding areas among Christians there who desired to support evangelism and church planting in New England, since centuries ago it was New England missionaries who brought the Gospel to China. Dr. Chan’s confirmation was one of the fruits of that movement. His and Bishop Bill’s testimony surrounding this endeavor touched all who were present to hear the story.
Saturday night was a time for worship, testimony, and prayer as clergy came together to hear The Rev. Canon Ross Kimball give a testimony from his own life, encouraging our clergy to seek help when comfort is needed and trials are faced. A time for small groups followed, which allowed each person to share their struggles and receive prayer from their brothers and sisters.
The last day of the conference was set aside for practical discussions and presentations surrounding the ministerial and financial life of the diocese. One of those presentations was by The Rev. Dr. Nathan Baxter, who talked about the formation of All Saints’ Anglican Church, Amesbury, as the diocesan cathedral, which will serve as a place for discipleship, ministry, and refreshment for our clergy. The Rev. Baxter set forth a vision of cathedral that is complimentary to the ADNE’s mission, embodying in its location and ministry God’s purpose for the Kingdom and His Church.
Bishop Bill recently wrote, “We, the Christ followers in every generation, carry the Good News of the Gospel. We have a story of how that good news changed and is continuing to change our life stories. Our question is, Do we expect that our story of the Good News can still change the lives of people we meet?” He is passionate about training and forming those we disciple to be more effective in their conversations with others and their witness for Christ. That formation begins with Church leadership, who in turn bring it to those in their congregations, who in turn bring it to the people in their lives who don’t know Jesus. That is why this conference brought out the stories that have marked us as a diocese and have crafted the men and women who lead the Church in New England.