Greetings from the UK to my beloved brothers and sisters in Toowoomba! It has been wonderful to hear of all the fruitful things happening at St Bart's whilst I've been away. It has been an encouraging time away with many opportunities to give thanks to God for how he is at work. If you're interested, here are a few highlights of some of the meetings so far.
- Visit to St Helen Bishopsgate: St Helen Bishopsgate is an historic evangelical church in the heart of the business district in London. Their vicar-emeritus, Dick Lucas, is a very well-known preacher and teacher. Each week the church has mid-week lunch gatherings with Bible teaching and discussion, particularly designed for the neighbouring business community. This was a great time with a very large group of people gathering to hear teaching from the Bible and discuss it together (amidst busy working days). I could imagine something like this working very well in Toowoomba! I also joined for worship on a Sunday and was greatly encouraged by the community, worship, and teaching.
- Church Growth and Evangelism Conference: This conference was absolutely fantastic and included presentations from dioceses all over the UK. It was very encouraging to hear of the strategic, faithful, and creative ways that churches are seeking to grow in maturity and reach people who don't yet know the Good News. There were many ideas and principles that the Brisbane contingent is hoping to raise for consideration in Brisbane. There were also many ideas that were affirming of what's already happening at St Bart's, along with some new ideas as well. One of the most impressive aspects of the conference was being able to hear something of people's great passion for God and the way that they love the people in their regions and seek for them to know Jesus. In particular, it was evident that the church is being more intentional in its mission, resourcing larger churches to be a blessing to other churches (and provide a basis for church planting), and investing in more contextually-based training for ministers. It was also exciting to hear about a national evangelism project called, 'Talking Jesus' (I'm certain it's something we can draw on at St Bart's).
- Visit and Meetings with St Mellitus College: St Mellitus College is a theological college started in London in 2007 (with help from Holy Trinity Brompton) with seven people training for ordination. Ten years on, they now are training around 220 people for ordained ministry along with hundreds of other people. The model of training is quite innovative, enabling potential ministers to engage in work at churches as part of their theological and academic study. St Paul's Theological Centre (part of HTB) operates in conjunction with the college and offers a range of night-time courses. I was able to attend one of those sessions after having met with a staff member of the college and the principal, Bishop Graham Tomlin. Their emphasis on seeking to train the whole people of God was very affirming of our focus through the St Bart's Training Centre (including the Ridley Certificate).
- Meeting with the Research & Statistics Team of the Church of England: It was a blessing to spend time with this team and learn from the great work that they are doing. Whilst (of course!) much larger than the Brisbane Diocese, there was much that I was able to learn from them for use closer to home in our diocese.
I've met with many other people over the time and have been able to learn much about what is (and is not!) working in the UK as they seek to make and mature disciples. This Sunday I will be joining worship at Gas Street - a one-year-old Anglican church plant in Birmingham that has grown phenomenally in that time. After this, I'll be visiting the Centre for Church Growth in Durham before returning to Toowoomba.
During the time, it's given me great cause to give thanks to God anew for all that he is doing in and through our church. It has also been so encouraged to be the receiver of people's incredible generosity of time.
It is such a profound privilege to be part of God's family with you, labouring in God's great harvest, and proclaiming his Good News in Toowoomba (and beyond). I miss you all dearly! Thank you for your love, prayers, and Gospel partnership - I very much look forward to seeing you all next Sunday.