Monday, 2 July 2018

‘All Things are Possible’
at this year’s USPG
conference in High Leigh

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire … the venue for USPG’s annual conference this week from 2 to 4 July 2018 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I am at the High Leigh Conference Centre, near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, for the USPG annual conference, which began earlier today [2 July 2018] and continues until Wednesday [4 July 2018].

I arrived at Stansted earlier in the day and had breakfast in Cambridge this morning, visited Sidney Sussex College, and spent a little time browsing in the bookshops before catching the train to Broxbourne, the nearest station to High Leigh.

‘All Things are Possible’ is the theme of this year’s conference organised by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). It is a theme that comes from Saint Matthew's Gospel: But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19: 26). This also builds on the theme of USPG’s Lenten study pack, which we used earlier this year in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes.

This year’s conference offers opportunities to discover how Anglican Churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America are engaging with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Emma Bridger, USPG’s Programme Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, this afternoon summarised the 17 inter-connected goals that aim to transform our world by 2030 under these headings:

● 1, No Poverty

● 2, Zero Hunger

● 3, Good Health and Well-Being

● 4, Quality Education

● 5, Gender Equality

● 6, Clean Water and Sanitation

● 7, Affordable and Clean Energy

● 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth

● 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

● 10, Reduced Inequalities

● 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities

● 12, Responsible Consumption and Production

● 13, Climate Action

● 14, Life Below Later

● 15, Life on land

● 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

● 17 Partnerships for the Goals

We are focussing on these goals in the conference and in workshops through five themes: Prosperity, People, Plant, Peace and Partnership.

There are workshops and speakers from throughout the world Church, making this year’s conference an opportunity to explore how the Church can play its part in tackling poverty, fighting inequality, campaigning for climate justice, and much more.

The five guest speakers at the conference this year are:

Archbishop Albert Chama, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa and Bishop of Northern Zambia;

Jessica Richard, Co-ordinator, Campaign and Advocacy, the Church of South India;

Dr James Corah, Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment, CCLA Investment Management Ltd, and secretary to the Church Investors Group;

The Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan, Principal of Saint Thomas’s Theological College in Karachi, the national seminary of the Church of Pakistan;

The Right Revd Donald Jute, who last year became the 14th Bishop of Kuching, the diocese that covers Sarawak and Brunei in the Anglican Church in South-East Asia.

Bishop Donald was consecrated and enthroned on 13 August 2017 in Saint Thomas’s Cathedral, Kuching. The Diocese of Lichfield has long-term links with Kuching.

Before becoming Bishop of Kuching, Bishop Donald was the Vicar of the Good Shepherd Church, Lutong in Miri. He served in the Diocese of Glasgow in 2003-2009 and was Rector of Saint Oswald’s in King’s Park, Glasgow, in 2007-2009.

He has a BD from the University of Edinburgh and a Diploma in Missiology from the Australian College of Theology, and he has been a lecturer at the House of the Epiphany Theological College (1992-1998).

He is passionate about Church Renewal, Discipleship Training, Youth Ministry and the Empowerment of Lay Leadership, and has been his diocesan co-ordinator for local ordained ministry. He is married with four children.

This year’s Bible studies are being led by the Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, a Peace and Interfaith activist.

Before the conference officially started this afternoon, there was a meeting of USPG trustees and a session for USPG volunteers.

This afternoon, at the opening of the conference, we were welcomed to High Leigh by Canon Chris Chivers, the outgoing Chair of USPG Trustees and the principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, and the Revd Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG, introduced our first discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals. At our second session this evening, Archbishop Albert Chama is to speak on theme of ‘Prosperity’ in these goals.

We begin tomorrow morning [3 July] with a celebration of the Eucharist with Bishop Donald Jute, when the preacher is the Revd Dr Evie Vernon-O’Brien of USPG Global Relations.

I have been asked to chair the session tomorrow afternoon when the Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan from Karachi is speaking. At the meeting of the USPG Council tomorrow evening, I expect to be nominated for a second three-year term as a trustee of USPG.

Residential places are now fully booked, but USPG supporters still have the opportunity of attending the one-day conference tomorrow. The conference is free for students, ordinands, USPG Diocesan Representatives, volunteer speakers, and Journey With Us participants.

The Dean of Lusaka Cathedral, the Very Revd Charley Thomas, is the celebrant at our Closing Eucharist on Wednesday morning [4 July], and Canon Chris Chivers is the preacher.

Afternoon sunshine at High Leigh, the venue for this year’s USPG conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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