The Diocesan Conference Centre - Wychcroft

The highlights of our conference were provided by presentations given by Jeff Claxton ,churchwarden at St Martin in the Fields, Sue Hutson Diocesan Community Project adviser and a limbering up session by Lee McAuliffe, the Headmaster of St Alfege and St Peters primary school.

On Friday evening, after dinner, Jeff Claxton told us about the 80 year development of the activities in St Martins, culminating in the project now being built which completely reconstructs the crypts and vaults around the church to provide a new cafe, Chinese community centre, interpretation centre and various subsidiary functions. This bold step had become unavoidable because the buildings had become uninhabitable. The means were found to raise £30million and a major building project is now under way.

Conversations went on into the small hours. the weekend had started with a bang.

Food and accommodation are excellent, if simple. This was the scene at breakfast - the Field family in the foreground.

I come next to the presentation by Sue Hutson, although this was later in the day. Sue showed how certain principles gleaned from bible study could prove applicable in the most tricky projects and she gave examples of three projects: St Johns in Peckham, St Johns in >>>> and >>>>. Once again these projects showed how, if a church decides to reach out and provide for the needs of the local community, the means can be found to meet the need fully. The fear of RISK  is a deadening influence which we should learn to avoid. This was a truly inspiring talk showing what could be done with determination and courage.

At 10.00 a.m. Chris Moody gave his introductory talk. (see conference main page above) and announced the four topics which were of primary interest. Complete notes had been provided of relevant points from the consultation, though to tell the truth, these were almost entirely ignored in the discussions, which in effect start from scratch with a SWOT analysis of each topic. For those who have not come across this before, it works as follows:
    S - Strengths (think about what you do well)
    W - Weaknesses (think about what you migh do better)
    O - Opportunities (what might you do given the chance)
    T - Threats (what might go wrong if you do nothing)

A monster threat - by Nicholas Field.

The four groups laboured away until lunch and even continued afterwards, seemingly getting further and further away from a consensus until in desperation, four unfortunates were named to be spokespeople. Miraculously, it seemed to most of us, four coherent statements were pulled from the mire to be pesented at the plenary session t 3.00 o clock. True, we needed a mind mending wake up session from Lee McAuliffe, the head of our primary school, who managed by sleight of hand to prove to most of us that we could not count up to three - at least not in pairs!
The summaries of the four topic sessions are on their pages. If anyone wishes to have complete transcripts, they are available.

Delicious light relief was provided in the evening by Francis and Penny Saunders, who played violin and cello duets covering most of the familiar folk song repertoire.

and later some members of the choir came to entertain us with part songs new and old, including some composed by choir members. What talent!

And so, well wined and dined, to bed.

On Sunday morning after breakfast, a new session was convened to try and focus more clearly on a common purpose and vision, which still seemed to be lacking. It seemed still that Chris Moody's opening statement came closest to this for most of us, but we were exhorted to go away and do better in our individual groups to define a) our vision and b) action needed. This would result in clear statement for the benefit of those members of the church who were not able to be there, and be a springboard for inviting all to join in with us and endorse the conclusions.

Finally, we gathered for Eucharist in the simple but beautiful chapel, where the choir sang like Byrds, Chris Moody preached one of his fine sermons and
good will to all men and womenoverflowed at the 'Peace' .

After lunch and another round of good wine,we set off through the winding country lanes for home and our families.