03 April 2011

“Praying the Kingdom”

Patrick Comerford

Affirming Catholicism has announced the details of its 2011 residential conference at Liverpool Hope University from 29 June to 1 July on the theme, “Praying the Kingdom.”

I have been invited to lead a workshop on “Prayer, mission and building the kingdom: the work of USPG.”

Announcing the programme, the conference organisers said: “We live in a world which desperately needs the transformative power of the kingdom. But working to bring about social justice, to alleviate debt, to preserve the environment are not simply a matter of social action: they are integral to the mission of the church and they must be rooted in prayer.”

They say the conference brings together speakers and workshop leaders from across the Anglican Communion and from sister churches to reflect on the theme of prayer and the mission of the church through keynote addresses, workshops, worship and prayer.

The opening service at 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday 29 June will include a welcome address by Bishop James Jones of Liverpool. The keynote speakers are key thinkers and actors in the life of the church.

Bishop Stephen Cottrell of Chelmsford speaks on Wednesday evening on “Be careful what you pray for: the psalms, the kingdom and the struggle for justice.” Bishop Cottrell is a well known writer and speaker on evangelism, spirituality and catechesis. He was a founder member of Springboard, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s evangelism team. His best-selling book, How to Pray (London: Church House Publishing) has recently been re-issued.

The writer of prayer and poetry, Janet Morley, will speak on Thursday morning [30 June] on: “ ‘It is dangerous to read newspapers’ (Margaret Atwood): risk, hope and the practice of praying the kingdom.” She is the author of several books of prayers, including All Desires Known and Bread of Tomorrow – praying with the world’s poor. She is currently preparing for SPCK an anthology of poems, with reflective commentaries, for use in Lent and Eastertide.

On Thursday afternoon, the Revd Professor Sarah Coakley speaks on: “Healing the Broken Body: Prayer and the Overcoming of Division.” Dr Coakley is the Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, and a Fellow of Murray-Edwards (previously New College) at the University of Cambridge. She has taught at Lancaster, Oxford, and Harvard, and has worked and written on the relationship between prayer and leadership.

On Friday morning [1 July], Bishop Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana speaks on: “Dancing in a rainbow of prayer: the magical journey to wholeness.” Bishop Trevor Mwamba is the best-selling author of Dancing Sermons. He also appears as himself in a number of Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling books, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, as well as in the movie. He was a priest in Notting Hill, London, and his native Zambia before moving to Botswana.

I have been asked to lead one of the workshops at the conference in Liverpool Hope University. These workshops run on Thursday morning and afternoon, and I am leading one on: “Prayer, mission and building the kingdom: the work of USPG.”

The other workshop leaders and themes include:

● The Revd Dr Mark Chapman, Vice-Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, Reader in Modern Theology in the University of Oxford, and Visiting Professor at Oxford Brookes University: “The Kingdom and the Big Society: responding to the current crisis.”

● The Revd Canon Cynthia Dowdle, Vicar of Saint Mary’s, Knowsley, Prescot, and Dean of Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of Liverpool: “Mission and multi-tasking: the challenge of growth in multi-parish benefices.”

● The Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Director of Biblical Studies and Lecturer in New Testament, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford,: “The kingdom of God is here but is not yet: signs of the kingdom in the New Testament.”

● The Revd Canon Robert Jones, Diocesan Director of Training and Development, the Diocese of Worcester: “Praying the liturgy through music from the world Church.”

● The Revd Ian Mobsby, an Anglican priest working full-time with Moot in the Diocese of London, an associate Missioner of the Archbishops’ Fresh Expressions Team, and an associate lecturer at a number of ordination training institutes: “Be(com)ing: catholic and contemplative Fresh Expressions.”

● Janet Morley: “ ‘Thy Kingdom come...’: writing prayers for a better world.”

● The Revd Regan O’Callaghan, a New Zealand-born artist and icon writer now living in London: “Images of the kingdom? Icons and the spiritual journey.”

Speakers are to be confirmed for workshops on “Proclaiming the Kingdom in the current situation of the Anglican Communion,” “The Church: hindrance or help in the vision of transformation?” and “The Iona Community”

The Closing Eucharist will be celebrated in the Lady Chapel at Liverpool Cathedral, when Professor Coakley is the preacher.

This promises to be rich and stimulating conference. The cost of the conference is £245 per delegate, and bursaries are being offered for theology students. More details are available at:

Affirming Catholicism conference, Liverpool Hope University

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and a director of USPG Ireland and a member of the Council of USPG

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