diocese of leeds lay conference


Nine Lay delegates from across our Benefice attended the first Lay Conference of our young Diocese. Chrissy as Assistant Area Dean and being part of the hosting team also shared in the day, Chrissy states “It was a real privilege to attend the Lay Conference. I was particularly encouraged that our Benefice had nine delegates, which was noted as a high attendance – I am so proud of our people and immensely grateful that they all gave up a whole Saturday to be at this event. I hope their enthusiasm for all they experienced is infectious”!

Below are the amalgamated Lay comments from our group. It was a very full day of presentations and sub groups and so these are just some of the high lights that made an impact on each of us.

Bishop Nick: In his introduction he reaffirmed that we are humans first, followed by discipleship and then ministry. He asked us “are we expecting to hear from God today”? Read on and see……We hope the following will also challenge, inspire and speak to all of us within the Benefice.

The opening worship and music was wonderful and really set the day as being God focussed.

Mark Russell – Chief Executive Church Army: Keynote speaker.
Challenged us to realise that in this secular world of today we are the “shop front” of Christianity and could be the only “Bible” some people read so our example can and should show people what Christianity and God is all about. We are a hope filled people in a world of uncertainty and we have good news to share! He suggested if each church introduced one new initiative a year – the difference it would make could be remarkable, and if each of us recruited one person to come to church – it would reverse any decline.

He encouraged us to reach out in new and creative ways – to actually go into the community. He illustrated the power of prayer – during a baptism service he shared how he wanted to make a difference by giving an Easter egg to all within his community. Little did he know there was a Director from Cadbury’s in the Baptism party, the person came forward and offered to supply all he needed!…..God equips us! He also showed an illustration of an orphaned hippo being placed with an aged tortoise and although they initially ignored each other, over time their relationship developed to one of caring, love and becoming inseparable – keep trying even if discouraged. Be confident in the love of Christ, we can change those around us by showing we care, doing this in simple ways eg text, buy flowers, phone, invite for coffee, by generally encouraging one another. He gave a humorous illustration of a rather poor looking sheep (won’t say ugly!) and how we need to look out for the lost and forlorn.

Testimony from Ehsan Kourjani – Sudan Link
A video was shown by this very young lady which gave a very thought provoking message of how “ordinary” people are spreading the word of God and bringing people to Christianity.

Bishop Jo Bailey-Wells “God’s call: The Old Testament and Me”
She confirmed that whatever we are called by God to do – God will equip us, even if we query and have doubts in His strength we can do it. We might feel we are broken pots/vessels and not worthy to do God’s work but broken pots have cracks and the light can shine out from these. God chooses to work through us – we are his hands and feet on earth, a vessel to radiate God’s Blessing….God chose us, we are a chosen people.

When we speak to God – listen and ask – don’t forget God’s voice can come through others so be open. – Keep listening as his call is like a gentle flowing river – not a stagnant pool – it evolves. Look and listen around you for the same persistent message until you act.

Nick Shepherd Programme Director ‘Setting God’s People Free’
Emphasised the need for Clergy and Laity to pull together to ‘enable’ God’s work to be done, it was refreshing to hear this at a conference for the Laity.

Andrew Norman Director of Ministry and Mission “Discerning God’s call for yourself and those around you”
Asked ‘How do you feel now?’ our answer was – tired, happy and inspired having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

It was good to be reminded that When the Old Testament talks of leaders it is their FAITH and NOT their Leadership the Old Testament emphasises eg (Moses, Abraham, Ruth and Samuel). He calls us from a place of safety to take risks, it may mean coming out of our comfort zone, we can be full of excuses but God says “I will equip you” Say yes to obedience and adventure. God is calling us individually to reach others and we will be blessed. The Old Testament is still so relevant to us today.

The closing worship and hymns were so inspiring, especially hearing them sung by nearly 1,000 voices.

It was also such a blessing to see the needs of those with a hearing impairment were met by two tireless sign language speakers; it reminded us of the need to ensure we are inclusive of all people irrespective of their individual needs.

We came away buzzing with the whole ethos of community in action, acknowledging the need to encourage and enthuse one another. Working together as one throughout the Diocese and Benefice to the benefit to all.

We recognise the need to encourage more people and especially younger people into our churches, perhaps a shared youth worker might be a way forward? Could our churches be used not only for worship but also to use our buildings for the benefit of the whole community?

Let us be a people of doing not just talking! Enabling means Lay and Clergy working together and when we do we have the potential to become a dynamic partnership!

Chris Eyes
St. James’ Church, Birstwith