Friday 10 September
Dr Beatrice Kastrati and Grace Walsh present the Possibility Ministries report
‘I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
And I know that you have little strength.’ (Rev. 3:8)
Dr Daniel Duda began the day with a devotional theme, ‘God’s Vision for Your Life and for Your Church’, by explaining the words of Revelation 3.
‘The door John describes was deliberately opened by God, and it still stands here today – open! As we begin this last day of the session,’ continued Pastor Duda, ‘we don’t need to keep rehearsing the last six years, but are invited to look forward.
‘What will be the future of the North England Conference?’ asked Dr Duda. ‘What will be the future of your local church? What do you think God wants for us together as community of believers in the NEC?’
Dr Duda went on to explain how the language and context of Revelation 3:8 indicates the door to be ‘a divinely opened door . . . a door intentionally, thoughtfully, purposefully, and deliberately opened by God himself in front of us’. It is a ‘symbolic’ door, ‘of boundless opportunities, of unlimited chances to do something worthwhile, of grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living.’
Leaving delegates with a challenge, not just for the day, but for the next quinquennium, Dr Duda concluded, ‘What are we going to do with the opportunities Jesus continues to give us? Imagine if 11,000 members of the North England Conference go through an open door; the world can be a different place.’
Church Planting & Church Growth report
Pastor Mike Simpson presented a valedictory report, recognising that he had served in this department since 2008. Highlighting 29 new church plants, he praised God for His leading. During Covid-19, while church planting was placed on the back burner, the NEC continued to organise churches, move Bible studies online, and adapt how the Gospel is shared in the context of the pandemic. He admitted that it has been challenging to provide the pastoral care and direction required to ensure the stability of the church plants.
Questioned by Richard Gray about the challenge of establishing sustainable church plants, including the need to establish a stable group in the town in the first place, Pastor Simpson responded reassuringly that ‘the vast majority of our church plants are surviving, but some need greater care than others, of which the plant in Southport is an example. It is our strategy,’ continued Pastor Simpson, ‘for a core team to be trained before we set up the plant.’
Bernadette Aldridge, longstanding member of over 30 years in the Leicester Central church, is confident that ‘God has put me in this church for a reason, and I wonder what more I can do to reach my white friends.’ It is a concern Pastor Simpson and many members share, but believes that ‘since God has blessed us with black members – God has placed within the church members with the necessary spiritual gifts to reach white folks, Indian folks and other cultures.’ His appeal was, ‘We need to make greater use of those members who are gifted in crossing cultures.’
Grace Walsh (Community Services Director) thanked the churches for running community kitchens and food banks. Leicester Central members, for example, started their work with the community by conducting a visual assessment of their local area. They asked the question: ‘Who do we see who is in need?’ They did see people in need, but as a church were not ready to commit to that. However, they did organise a ‘tea, toast and chat’ session on a Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours – a way of introducing the community into our church, to get to know who we are and what we stand for. From this Leicester Central members felt confident in organising a food bank and other outreach activities.
During the past Quinquennium 23 wills were written for church members. Over the same period, bequests to the sum of £39,395 were paid to the benefit of the church from members who have gone to their rest. Pastor Jeff Nicholson expressed thanks to God ‘for the commitment and faithfulness of our members to the continuing mission and purpose of the Church through their bequests’.
Under the new direction of Dr Beatrice Kastrati, the intent of Possibility Ministries is to develop and enhance from an ‘inclusive ministry’ into a ‘leadership ministry’ and create church plants, for example, to minister specifically to the deaf.
Roy Zembe from Loughborough was concerned that in addition to supporting those disabilities we can see, what moves are there to help support those disabilities ‘we cannot see’? It is a need Dr Kastrati recognised and affirmed, commenting: ‘We intentionally need to seek out those who struggle with folk who have needs we cannot see.’
In the absence of the Education sponsor Emily Tebbs-Ogutu, Danny Reid presented the report. An enthusiast for Adventist Education, Danny shared with conviction and passion how significant are Harper Bell School (Birmingham) and Dudley House School (Grantham). Through a question from the floor, there was a plea to the new administration to consider again the strategic value of the schools to the work of the church in the North England Conference, and as appropriate provide the necessary funding.
The above is a summary of the reports that were presented during the Friday morning business session.
To discover more about the work of the North England Conference over the last quinquennium, click on the following link to read or download the 161-page session report.
Friday’s business continued in the afternoon after lunch, but was too late for the publication of this report.