Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Building on the work of the saints who have gone before and the legacy they have left

The new Chief Executive and General Secretary of USPG, Mrs Jeanette O’Neill (centre) with Patrick Comerford and Linda Chambers de Bruijn of USPG Ireland

Patrick Comerford

This year’s USPG conference came to a close this afternoon at the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. This morning’s programme was an opportunity for the new Chief Executive and General Secretary of USPG, Mrs Jeanette O’Neill, to introduce her vision for the society and her approach to the challenges facing Anglican mission in the 21st century.

“We are a Church-to-Church society,” she said, and emphasised the call to strengthen partner churches in the Anglican Communion.

Constantly she emphasised the need to build and develop partnership and relationships. She talked about support for new bishops in their role and in their advocacy. But what does that mean for the people the church serves at grassroots, through programmes in health, education, capacity building and human rights.

She brings key experiences to USPG, and she spoke of her previous work as Senior Programme Officer with Episcopal Relief and Development in New York, involving partnership in development programmes with the Anglican churches in Africa, particularly in Uganda and Southern Africa.

She has also worked for ten years in Lesotho, where she joined the board of a mission hospital, and watched the HIV/AIDS crisis unfold in that time.

She spoke of how she had been “dazzeled” by the way people at conference had a sense of ownership of USPG, in an unbroken chain of links back to the foundation of SPG in 1701. She pointed out that USPG dates back to 1701, before the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, so that “we predate the country we are living in.” She said USPG “is built on the work of the saints who have gone before and the legacy they have left.”

Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria, who has retired as an international trustee, told the conference he was assured that USPG is “in good hands.”

An early morning walk in the countryside near High Leigh this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The conference concluded with the Eucharist celebrated according to the South African rite by Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria. The preacher was Canon Edgar Ruddock.

The conference has been attended by almost 200 delegates and participants from over two dozen countries, including a dozen or more bishops, among them three primates, and they came from most Anglican provinces and from every continent where there is an Anglican presence.

The new Chief Executive and General Secretary of USPG, Mrs Jeanette O’Neill (right) with the Revd Dr Alan McCormack (left), a council member from the Diocese of London and formerly of Trinity College Dublin, and Patrick Comerford (centre) (Photograph: Chris Dobson, 2011)

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, member of the Council of USPG, and a director of USPG Ireland and USPG Northern Ireland.

Remaining ‘faithful, viable and sustainable’ through the changes

Ringing out the changes for USPG ... High Leigh Conference Centre, near Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Patrick Comerford

There were warm tributes to Bishop Michael Doe at the council meeting of USPG – Anglicans in World Mission, last night [Tuesday, 21 June 2011]. Bishop Michael has been general secretary of USPG for seven years since 2004, and previously spent eight years as Bishop of Swindon. In the last two years, he has faced tough truths and tough decisions in his efforts to make USPG “sustainable, viable and faithful.”

He said last night that USPG is not a Western charity, is not an NGO, and is not a fund-raising, grant-making foundation. It is primarily a Church-to-Church mission agency engaging in God’s holistic mission so that the Churches in the Anglican Communion can strengthen each other.

We said farewell too to a number of international trustees and council members, including Archbishop Mauricio Andrande from Brazil, Bishop Purely Lyngdoh of North-East India, Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria, and Bishop Royden Screech of St Germans, in the Diocese of Truro The new trustees elected last night are Bishop Jacob Ayeebo of Tamalae, Ghana; Bishop Edward Malecdan, Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; Bishop Andrew Proud of Reading; and the Revd Dr Ian Rock, Principal of Codrington Theological College in Barbados.

Earlier in the afternoon, we had a rich diet of content, and the themes from the day’s discussions were brought together at a panel discussion.

The Bishop of Botswana, the Right Revd Dr Trevor Mwamba, had spoken on “Leadership Formation,” and talked about developing character and developing capacity so that leaders can be relevant in their societies. The Church must be seeking out people with the right mindset, and not just the right skills set, he set.

He talked about the vulnerable leader, comparing it with the leadership style of Christ, who came not be served but to serve.

The panel included Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Cairo, Deaconess Dr Evie Vernon from Jamaica, who is Director of the Selly Oak Centre for Mission Studies in Birmingham, and the Revd Dr David Evans, Anthony McKernan and Canon Edgar Ruddock of USPG staff.

Bishop Bill Down reported on the fund-raising efforts of the 300 Club, formed among USPG supporters in 2011 to mark the 300th anniversary of the foundation of SPG. He hopes the club can close the year by reaching a fund-raising target of £310,000 to make the 310th anniversary of USPG this year.

This morning’s programme gives an opportunity for the new Chief Executive and General Secretary of USPG, Mrs Jeanette O’Neill, to introduce her vision for the society and her approach to the challenges facing Anglican mission in the 21st century.

The conference concludes with the Eucharist celebrated according to the South African rite by Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria. The preacher is Canon Edgar Ruddock

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, member of the Council of USPG, and a director of USPG Ireland and USPG Northern Ireland.