17 July 2017

Initiatives for the 21st century from
a centuries-old mission agency

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire … the venue for the USPG conference this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The USPG annual conference, which opened in the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, this afternoon, is looking at ‘Serving Churches, Strengthening Communities.’

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is one of the oldest Anglican mission agencies, founded in 1701, but this afternoon we heard of exciting new initiatives working with the church to meet the challenges presented in the 21st century.

Welcoming us to the conference, the Revd Chris Chivers, chair of trustees, spoke of reconnecting with the ‘DNA’ of USPG.

In our first session this afternoon, Janette O’Neill, USPG General Secretary, invited us to look at USPG’s work with the Church and Communities through the experiences of USPG staff members.

‘We are inspired by the Gospel to be the hands and feet of Christ,’ she said. ‘We are faithful, we are radical, we stand in solidarity, and we respect context.’

She explained how this is worked out through the way USPG promotes collaborative and mutually accountable leadership, takes part in dynamic alliances, and pursues justice through locally defined and sustainable initiatives.

Enthusiastic staff members who shared their experiences in the past year included Rebecca Woollgarr, Volunteering Manager; Emma Bridger, Programme Monitoring and Evaluation Manager; Rachel Parry, Director of Global Relations; Rebecca Boardman, Programme Co-ordinator, Advocacy and Mission, Global Relations; Naomi Herbert, Director of International Programmes; Edgard Ruddock, general adviser, Global Relations; Habib Nader, Programme Manager, Global Relations; Richard Bartlett, Director for Mission Engagement; Evie Vernon, Programme Adviser, Theological Education; Fran Mate, Programme Manager, International Programmes; and Davidson Solani, Programme Manager, International Programmes.

They were filled with infectious commitment as they spoke of USPG’s work in Greece, the Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, the Anglican churches in the Indian Ocean, and in areas including climate justice, refugees, people trafficking, gender justice and health education.

Rebecca spoke of Father Malcolm Bradshaw and the work of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in Athens with refugees in Greece, in partnership with the other churches in Greece.

Richard Bartlett also spoke of the work with refugees and migrants in Greece. He spoke too of USPG’s presence at Greenbelt and USPG’s fringe event at the General Synod of the Church of England in York, and discussed USPG’s work at theological college and with ordinands, including the ‘Re-thinking Mission’ conference.

Emphasising the value of ‘people meeting people,’ Rachel spoke of mutual dependence and responsibility in the Body of Christ.

Habib spoke of how USPG is changing mindsets, making a difference and unlocking potentials.

But it is hard to get it all into an hour, and the annual report tells a more detailed story and provides a fuller picture.

Later this evening, Canon Grace Kaiso, general secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CANA), speaks about ‘Enabling Livelihoods.’

The speakers and attendance at the conference includes people from dioceses in the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Europe, the Church in Wales, South Africa, Bangladesh, the Philippines, the West Indies and Myanmar (Burma).

Throughout the conference, our worship is being led by Father Herbert F Fadriquela Jr, chaplain to the Filipino Community in the Diocese of Leicester.

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