22-23 November 2004: Through a glass darkly : Church Leaders conference
The Church Leaders of Harrogate met for a residential conference at Wydale Hall in November 2004 - at their request – to draw together the Gathered Vision for the town. Almost every one of Harrogate's 45 churches were represented - a "church leaders' conference" rather than a "Churches Together" conference, although CT Harrogate were asked to make it happen. The vision and drive for the event began a year ago with various churches revealing plans for extensive development works. At the same time, ecumenical groups were crying out for funds and volunteers, illustrating how easy it can be to start a new ministry in favour of maintaining existing and effective works.
The process to ensure the viability of the conference included putting the proposal to the Churches Together AGM. It was warmly endorsed, especially adding that some church leaders may wish to bring along a "wise man", one perhaps gifted with prophetic vision or wisdom in "city-wide" strategic thinking. Requests to draw on the Regional Leaders for support at the conference were met: the four mainstream denominations James Bell , Arnold Harrison , Michael McQuinn and Michael Townsend, with Tony Gardiner (URC Pastoral Convenor) and Ken Good (Anglican Archdeacon for Richmond) as further contributors and listeners.
The conference was entitled "Through a Glass Darkly", expressing many aspects:
A Working Group was set up to draw on the skills of the wider area in making sure the conference met its aims, which were defined as:
The Working Group included Liz Williams and Viv Morrissey (Anglican and Methodist training officers) and Marty Presdee (school chaplain) who all contributed further by facilitating the event, as well as local church members. With the sad realisation early in the year that Dr Stephanie Rybak was on sabbatical, the conference was delighted to be still be able to call on WYEC input with Rev Dr Ray Williamson in the chair. All who attended were indebted to those involved in making the conference work so well.
It was notable that each session was surrounded in prayer: the ministers, pastors and priests of Harrogate had been allocated a brief devotion time to open and close each working session. The effect was of a relaxed yet disciplined fraternal with hard work, levity and what has been described as serious respect one for another. The outcomes reflect the many real and feasible possibilities which will require further determined hard work - but with exciting impacts on the wider area.
What next? The six geographical Area Groups of Churches Together in Harrogate already have much of the means to make local plans and decisions. The opportunities raised at this conference impact on the whole of the town, so the central CT Exec may have a part to play in oiling the wheels. Driven by God's love and the urge to share the Good News with the 90% of the town who don't darken the door of any church, the outcomes could be life changing.
To find out more of the work of Churches Together in Harrogate, explore their website at www.ctharrogate.org.uk. Regularly updated, and now with a full listing of Disability and Wheeled access to every open church in the town, the website has become a reliable resource to secular organisations as well as the wider church.
See also Wydale II, 2008