In this post Fiona Platt shares her experience of attending our recent conference.
Last weekend my aunt and I attended the Sanctuary First Re-Imagining Church conference to represent our church, Dunipace Parish Church. I woke up on Friday 12th feeling excited and slightly apprehensive about attending. I hoped and prayed that even though I was not a minister or an elder in the Church of Scotland that I would be welcome at this event and as a person who had recently rededicated my life to God, that I would have a valuable contribution to make.
As we arrived I was immediately reassured as we met Rev Andy Campbell who chatted to us making us feel at ease and very welcome. He had a wonderful smile and a lovely manner and I began to feel relaxed and to look forward to the rest of the weekend.
On the Friday night I really enjoyed the praise and worship and the quiet times that allowed me to pray and come into God's presence. I was also very moved by Albert Bogle's speech. He was so passionate about The Gospel and he was not afraid to show his emotions when he was talking about the need to get children back into the church. At this point I had an amazing vision. I looked up and I saw Jesus come and sit amongst us and when I looked at his face He was smiling. I felt so blessed as I knew that I was in the presence of God and I knew that He was going to do amazing things at the conference.
We were then asked to find a person who we didn't know to chat to so that we could make a new friend. I met a wonderful woman called Lorna who it turned out I had so much in common with. I immediately felt a connection with her and arranged to sit with her at lunch the next day. All too soon the Friday night conference had finished and we all enjoyed a well earned glass of wine. This was a really good opportunity to meet even more new people and we ended up going to bed late and wondering if we were going to make morning prayers at 07.30 the next morning.
Amazingly, we did make it along to the prayers which was a really nice way to start the day. The first workshop that we chose to go to was called "Embracing Youth" which Barbara and I chose as we are both involved in children's ministry. I really enjoyed meeting Linda Pollock and I especially found it valuable to watch the video she showed us which expressed the views of the young people in Linda's church.
At lunch time I enjoyed meeting and spending time with my new friends. After lunch we were privileged to hear Len Sweet speak to us via video link from America. Then we attended the 'Gifts of God's People' workshop presented by Maggie Lane. This was by far my favourite workshop of the weekend. I loved hearing how she had transformed her church and how she was so open to hearing the Word of God and acting upon it. Later on we attended the 'Connecting Online' workshop which I found really helpful as we are planning on making a new website for our church and we are very interested in live streaming as well. After dinner I thoroughly enjoyed being entertained by the people singing and playing the guitar and we relaxed with another glass of wine to help us sleep.
The praise and worship on Sunday morning was really good and and the communion was presented in such an emotional and beautiful way by Albert Bogle. I really felt privileged to worship God and share communion with all my new friends. The last workshop that we chose to go to was ‘Vision casting' by Russell McLarty. I found this workshop really helpful and it gave me a lot of practical storytelling ideas which I am planning on using with the youth in our church.
All too soon it was our last lunch at the conference but we enjoyed it with our new friends who we have exchanged details with and plan to keep in touch with. I really enjoyed the Re-Imagining Church conference and I feel much more positive now about the future of the Church of Scotland as we move into the next decade. As I said goodbye and drove away from the conference I knew in my heart that Jesus was still smiling!
Fiona Platt, Dunipace Parish Church