“The Ongoing Story” was the theme of the annual conference held at the Halliwell Centre, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen, over two days in June.
Friday, June 22ndcommenced with the BUW Business Meeting at the Teifi room whilst SWBA held their meeting at the Cothi meeting room.
Friday afternoon – Following lunch at The Merlin, and welcome from Revd Nick Bradshaw (SWBA), our session on Friday afternoon began with worship led by Johnny Wislan and Taylor Filgate from Mount Zion, Cardigan. Mark Craig from the BMS then introduced Ben Drabble who shared inspiring stories of the work that BMS were doing in Bardai, Chad and in Afghanistan. Kat Wagner and Menna Machreth Llwyd gave an update of other BMS work. The session ended with Simeon Baker introducing and interrogating Dr Kang-San Tan, the new General Director for BMS, who had been in post since September 2017. We were privileged to have Kang-San and his wife Loun Ling with us for the conference and appreciated their input into the programme.
The next session, held in the Cothi room, was an opportunity to share and listen to what God was doing across Wales and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities with Dr Kang-San Tan. All those attending on Friday had been asked to prepare in advance, a short story of hope to share with others. Everyone in the room then had an opportunity to turn to another person to share a story of good hope.In the chaos of swapping and sharing stories three or four times – we became aware that God was indeed at work. It was good to be reminded that there is hope in the ongoing story that God has yet to write in our lives. Around tables, we then took time to talk about where each of us were seeing opportunities and challenges for mission and it was good to have Kang San listening and participating in that discussion. Together with Loun Ling, their insights and reflections helped draw our afternoon to a close.
Friday Evening Celebration– The decision was made to have the Friday evening worship before dinner, so after tea and cake following the Stories of Hope interactive session, we congregated in the Theatre again. It was good to worship together again under the leadership of Mount Zion, Cardigan. As usual, time was given to commemorate the ministers who passed away during the past year. New ministers and ministers who have moved to serve in Wales were welcomed. Rev Terry Broadhurst was presented as the new President of the English wing – someone who we know will bring his passion and enthusiasm to the role for the year ahead – and he was inducted as president by the General Secretary. Rev Aled Davies brought greetings from the Welsh speaking wing of the Union. Dr Kang-San Tan, General Director of BMS World Mission, preached from Genesis remining us of God’s great mission through His people. Rev Susan Stevenson (SWBA) led us in prayer to finish a memorable service, before everybody ate together and shared fellowship.
SaturdayOpening Celebration– Saturday’s activities began with an all-age opening celebration and worship at the Halliwell Theatre led by the Revd Dr Helen Dare. The official welcome to all delegates on behalf of BUW was extended by the Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary. Worship was led by the band consisting of Helen Dare, Craig Gardiner, Rosie and Oliver Harries, Steve Lock and Jon Birch. The reading of Psalm 139, verses 1-3 was read by six individuals in six different languages. The story of the woman at the well from John 4 was shown on screen and was presented two members of the band and Moira Kleissner. Nick Bradshaw had the assistance of three young helpers from the congregation to convey his message on how “God’s story” became “his story” and how telling God’s story to others can become ‘Their story”.
Children and Youth Activities– Following the Opening Service, the children gathered in the Teifi room and the youth in the Sports Hall, where numerous activities had been prepared for them. The leaders of the children’s team were Moira Kleissner, Gemma Buckle, Helen Jones and Carwyn Willis. Youth activities were led by John Derek Rees, Owen James, John Rogers, Hannah and Rebekah Smethurst.
Seminars– The following seminars were held during the day: Mission in Tough Places– Kat Wagner, BMS; Becoming a Dementia Friendly Church– Maggie Rich; How can you be a Scientist and a Christian?– Emyr McDonald; Creative Arts and Mission– Lois Adams;Children and Youth: Sharing the Story– Sian Hancock, Steve Lock and Emma Mohr; In Conversation with Kang-San Tan and Loun Ling Leehosted by Roy Jenkins; Work and Witnesswith Loun Ling Lee; Training Disciples in a Changing World– Peter Stevenson.
Refreshments– A picnic lunch was provided for adults in the Merlin Restaurant at noon and for the children in the Teifi room, whilst the youth were served pizzas at the Sports Hall.
Closing Celebration for all ages– The all age worship was once again led by the Revd Dr Helen Dare with the assistance of her band. Six people – two adults, two youth and two children – were called to the front to share ‘their stories from the day’ with the congregation. Patricia Wiltshire and Gareth Cheedy both spoke of what had challenged them and what had given them renewed confidence regarding what God was doing through his people. Alice and Lily Rose spoke of what they had learnt about church through the children’s fun activities; and Katie and Rosie had learnt that whatever the challenges, God would always be there for you and will forgive you.
During the service, a video was shown of Jesus calling his first disciples and all were reminded of God’s call on our lives and the need to carry on His work. The eight people who had recently paid a visit to Nepal with BUW and BMS also had the opportunity, on film, to share their stories about their insight trip.
The calling of the first disciples was depicted well as the Revd Simeon Baker sat on the edge of the platform with a rod in his hand, asking if we had realised that God was interested in our story. God had called Peter by name, “Hey Peter!” and had asked him to be a fisherman of people and we needed to be reminded that Jesus wants us all to know his story. He had brought with him a big net, and in challenging us to do what Jesus told us to do, he invited the congregation – adults and children – to be caught in the net. It was amazing how many people fitted under the net, but there was still room for more as there is room for more in our churches.
After prayers for others had been offered by Craig Gardiner and Rosie Harries, Helen Dare challenged all to commit to what God was calling us to do and to write on the back of the footwear that had been included in each pack what the next step in our story would be. A collection for the work of the BMS was taken during the service.