On the weekend of 7-8 March, the North of England Conference for church officers was held with the theme ‘Caring for all God’s church’.
Although keynote speaker Richard Underwood was unwell, the organisers managed to find capable substitutes, who served the conference well.
Mike Plant, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (see ET comment, p.3), set the tone with an exposition of the Saviour’s command to ‘love one another as he has loved us’ from John 13.
Mr Plant’s exhortation was followed by a description from Esther Smith of the work of Caring for Life and its excellent efforts in showing practical Christian care.
The following morning we were instructed by Graham Heaps from 1 Thessalonians 5, emphasising that we are to ‘look after’ (v.11) one another. This is especially the call of those appointed to shepherd Christ’s flock (vv.12ff).
Three practical sessions allowed us to consider the implications of truly caring for all God’s people. I found the one led by Mike Luehrmann on our use of the internet thought-provoking and insightful.
Mr Heaps returned for a second session on ‘Caring for fringe members’, speaking from Galatians 4:8-20. We were encouraged to remember that Christians come from a great variety of backgrounds and to remember our need to work together that Christ be formed in each of us (vv. 19-20).
Gordon Frame welcomed us back from lunch with a helpful session, sharing news of conversions across the north of England, to God’s glory and our encouragement.
John Harris gave a helpful summary of the life of Lord Shaftesbury who, motivated by love for Christ, pursued and saw great changes in the fabric of our nation. He was ‘the most eminent social reformer of his day’ and ‘the best friend the poor ever had’.
The conference was brought to a good conclusion by Malcolm McGregor speaking on God’s forgiveness of our sin as our pattern for living with those who offend us.
The conference was well attended and a marvellous opportunity to renew and make new contacts. It was a privilege to attend.