Saturday, November 21, 2009

Conference at Cornerstone

A car trip to Morriston, Swansea for me on this dark overcast and rainy day with Jim Stewart and Paul Hocking of Gweini for their annual conference, at which Paul had invited to me speak in a seminar about the work we've done together forging a working partnership between Street Carers and the City Council. The conference was at the Cornerstone Church, centre, established in an building that appears formerly to have belonged to British Telecom. As well as a large main hall space, there were plenty of rooms for small group activities, easy to access. It was well equipped with lots of hi-tech presentation equipment, used for the church's extensive teaching ministry. The event was beautifully organised by a hospitable home team, and brouight together people from all over Wales, about forty of them. It a vigorous community worth taking note of. Their website will give you a favour of it.

Conference contributions ranged from work with the homeless and asylum seekers, to food banks, farming crisis, engaging with local authorities and addiction rehabilitation. Wide ranging and most encouraging as evidence of different kinds of engagement in contemporary concerns. Towards the end of the conference we received presentations from two young web design entrpreneurs who were Christians in the realm of digital media. It was challenging stuff, and actually deserved an earlier place in the day, because they were applying some serious critical thought to their creative process. In itself this was capable of being influential on the way we approached other issues of social involvement. Their brief input certainly has me thinking about all my web creations, and what purposes they serve. I need time to ponder properly on this.

Gweini is a body that enables Christian voluntary bodies across Wales and in various localities to find a voice in public affairs that matches their public service and community interests. It's what we Anglicans refer to as our social responsibility mission. There's been a sea change in the domain of independent evangelical and charismatic churches in the past quarter of a century, that has seen them engage innovately in community building mission and church planting in new housing areas as well as town centres and urban priority areas. It's the rediscovery of social gospel mission as practiced by Methodism and the Sally Army in the 18th and 19th century, and reflects renewed creativity and social enterprise that makes them a vital force in contemporary mission, one that goes largely unrecognised by many in established mainstream denominations.

It was a stimulating experience to share a little in this journey into social engagement and a fuller participation in civil society, as it's one I've been taking during the years of my ministry in the city centre, really for the first time in my working life. We're all now learning how to do this afresh as those in government look towards faith groups for fresh energy and inspiration in tackling the problems of different kinds of social exclusion and 'broken Britain'.

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