But for a mad dash back to London for a project board on Thursday, I’ve spent the last week down at New Wine. It has been an encouraging faith-filled week with wonderful worship and inspiring speakers. However much of my time has been spent, not in the vast choice of incredible meetings, but simply bumping into and catching up with other church leaders. It is a privilege to hear their stories; their joys and their frustrations. Many have struggled, coping with inward looking churches trapped in long-term cycles of decline.
Back in May I visited an Anglican Diocese in Kenya. You may be surprised to hear that I encountered something similar among church leaders there to what I observe here. Even in a country like Kenya, where Christianity has a vibrancy long lost to our own green and pleasant land, church leaders are often overwhelmed by the thankless toil of their calling. While ministering in Kenya, in an adjacent building to where we were, there was a conference for all the archdeacons from across the country. Their scheduled speaker had not turned up and so I was wheeled in as the replacement. What a great honour and what an incredible opportunity to speak to this group of some of the most senior clergy in the land. Yet what I was confronted with was not the array of ebullient talent I expected, but the slumped shoulders of men and women facing similar struggles to my church leader friends I bumped into at New Wine.
Leadership is difficult and challenging irrespective of the context in which we find ourselves. Conferences like New Wine in Somerset and Archdeacon retreats in Western Kenya offer precious inspirational encouragement, which is often a lifeline for weary church leaders. Part of our Go and Grow vision is to be a resourcing centre to offer similar support based more locally in North London. The need has never been greater.