“Best conference I have been to in its feel and purpose.”
“A time for renewal and rest in God.”
As feedback on conferences go, Mandjar, the National Lay Preachers Conference, was tops.Max Howland, Chair of the National Lay Preachers Committee described it as “wide-ranging and well-balanced”.
Named after its venue, Mandurah (from the Nyungar ‘gathering place’) the conference gathered some 70 persons, about a third of them from other Synods. The youngest participant was a little girl, all of four months old. The conference revolved around the theme ‘One Calling, Many Expressions’ to celebrate the diversity of ways that God meets and calls lay people in churches and in communities.
Theologians Nancy Ault, Bill Loader, Geof Lilburne and Ian Tozer delivered lectures on spirituality, same-sex relations, mission and preaching that were described as “elegant yet full of clarity”, “challenging and hopeful”, “inspiring”. Emanuel Audisho, Kalo Fotu and Yuko Tonai-Moore highlighted the wealth of the church’s diverse culture by sharing worship in languages other than English. Workshops on prayer, discipleship, lay-lead congregations and alternative faith communities were led by Joan McRae, Ian Robinson, Trevor Thomas and Paul Montague. A national meeting of lay preachers was held on Saturday. Jill Tabart, former Uniting Church president, preached on God’s life-giving breath on dry bones. This was prophetic in more ways than one as by Sunday evening, there was vigorous dancing to the 12-piece Footprints Band from Byford Uniting.
The weekend was also a time of renewal and reflection. Rev Sealin Garlett, from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, showed respect to the ancestors of Mandjar and invited participatns to “make the land a part of you.”
Ron and Viv Larkin led a dramatic Iona service. The gentle movements of shibashi, accompanied breath prayer for participants under an ancient fig tree on the water’s edge. Afterwards was a session to discern on where God might be calling each one of us as we move into the future. The prayer stations that remained open around the hall throughout the conference were re-arranged for the sending worship service led by Denise Savage around the central pillar representing Christ .
Participants said they were taking home the “joy of fellowship” and “hope for the future”. One participant “wished my congregation had been here to learn!
Mandjar was held 5-7 April at the Mandurah Convention Centre and was organised by the Lay Preachers Association WA on behalf of the National Lay Preachers Committee.
DVDs of the main lectures are soon to be available from Doug Burtenshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org