Our 2024 Conference will be our 61st! Back at High Leigh March 22nd – 24th, 2024 for an uplifting weekend, God willing. It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet friends, sing our hearts out and be spiritually rejuvenated through an engaging programme of talks and Focus Sessions. Have a read through all the details below to make sure you don’t miss out:
|Bookings:||Open Jan 1st 2024.|
|Sunday Talks:||“Let me show you a better way” by Mick Roberts (Ashby).|
|Saturday Focus Sessions:||See below for the briefs of this year’s Focus Sessions.|
|Cost:||£230 weekend rate (or 50% subsidised packages available to anyone). |
Special £75 rate for 25 and under (limited places only).
|Location:||High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, EN11 8SG|
|1||The Spirit of God. A Biblical perspective on a fundamental aspect of the spiritual life (John Greenwood)||Masterclass|
|2||Communion. Where the past & future meet us in the Breaking of Bread. (Joe Warwick)||Interactive|
|3||Out of touch, out of date. Understanding & respect in a changing world. (Hazel McHaffie)||Interactive|
|4||Reconstructing Church. New models for the post-lockdown ecclesia (Gareth & Ali Jones)||Interactive|
|5||Does everything happen for a reason? Trying to understand how God works in our lives. (Tom Gaston)||Interactive|
|6||A world in motion. Population migration & the Iranian influx (Mike and Suzette Thompson)||Interactive|
|7||Art Therapy and Spiritual Well-being. “Our attachment style to God”. (Kate Lawrence)||Interactive|
|8||NEW The covenant tribe of Adam (John Launchbury)||Masterclass|
|9||NEW Loving boundaries (Rachel Launchbury)||Interactive|
|10||NEW Developing our relationship with God. What is your spiritual pathway? (Stuart Walker)||Interactive|
|11||NEW Jesus subverts honour-shame culture (Wendy Johnsen)||Masterclass|
|12||NEW Jesus, LGBTQ+ and Inclusion (Sarah Joiner)||Interactive|
|13||NEW Resolving conflict. Holding space for ourselves and others. (Tom Peel)||Interactive|
|14||NEW Wholehearted faith (Rosemary Hardy)||Interactive|
|15||NEW Word & Truth. What happened to church teaching after the New Testament (Jan Smith)||Masterclass|
|16||NEW Membership & fellowship (Anthony Whitehorn)||Interactive|
|17||NEW The Christian response to the Climate Crisis (Martin Catchlove)||Interactive|
|18||NEW Creating the music of praise (Tony Stewart)||Interactive|
|19||Walk! (James Westmoreland)||Practical|
‘Masterclasses‘ are more of a presentation based on the research and knowledge of the tutor, they contain less/no group work than a typical ‘Interactive‘ focus session.
Focus Session Briefs:
 The Spirit of God (John Greenwood)
The aim of the session will be twofold. First, to explore the way our reading of references to the Spirit of God is coloured by an already-formed understanding, making it difficult to be objective about unfamiliar and seemingly threatening concepts. Second, to build a coherent and exhortational understanding of the present work of God in our lives by His Spirit, which is not only described as being holy, but which also brings holiness to those who seek it.
 Communion (Joe Warwick)
Whatever happened to the communion – the ‘breaking of bread’ – service?
This workshop aims to help remind ourselves of what might be a broader perspective, not focusing on aspects of fellowship but looking back to some of the origins of sharing bread and wine and the lessons from this. We will then think about the background and context, so entwined with Jewish tradition and significance, for communion in what Jesus said and did at the meal the night before he died.
What might be the things we have lost sight of, or aspects we may benefit from that could enhance our experience and give even greater honour to our Lord? As a well-known writer has said, it is all about ‘the past and the future meeting us in the present’, and it a wonderful future too.
Joe attends the church at Barnet which, like many others, has rapidly become a majority-Iranian based church, doing its best to serve and minister to the growing population of refugees in North London. The teaching and nurturing of many new brothers and sisters from an entirely different culture and religious background led to exploring afresh what lies at the heart of our breaking of bread communion service.
 Out of touch, out of date (Hazel McHaffie)
Our faith community is facing huge challenges, and this interactive workshop will dip into some of the hotspots currently exercising hearts and minds. Making change involves more than rehearsing convincing arguments; it requires negotiation, careful timing, sensitivity and humility. We will try not only to analyse and question our own personal viewpoints, but also to step outside our comfort zones, and gain insights into how others feel and respond. By sharing our combined understanding, wisdom and insights, we will endeavour to move forward together, respectfully and healthily, to the greater honour of our Heavenly Father.
Hazel has a long-standing interest in the use of stories to convey truths, and prefers to hide behind this technique in her talks, workshops and novels. Her professional experience in medical ethics has helped to shine a light – albeit flickering – on some of the issues which are challenging our faith community today. For the past 57 life-changing years she’s been an adopted Scot and a member of the Edinburgh Church.
 Reconstructing Church (Gareth & Ali Jones)
We have all had the opportunity to go “a la carte” during lockdowns, dipping in and out of all kinds of spiritual experiences – essentially deconstructing our established Christadelphian ways of doing things and possibly challenging all our old assumptions.
Now it’s time to reconstruct our church. But is there a single model? Starting with a clean sheet of paper by setting up a new ecclesia is one scenario. Yet there are other options too. What are they? Can we reconstruct our home churches to ensure all members are spiritually fed? Is this possible? Or do we just revert to how we have always done things for a quiet life and so as not to upset people?
 Does everything happen for a reason? (Tom Gaston)
As Christians, we believe that humans have free-will and are morally responsible for their actions. We also believe that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and has ordained (at least some) events to occur. Can these two ideas be reconciled? Can God know our future without compromising our freedom to choose our future? Does God control everything that occurs or does ‘time and chance happen to us all’? In this session we will look at both the witness of scripture and the insights of philosophy to explore these questions. This topic has implications for our understanding of divine foreknowledge, providence and creation, election and pre-destination, and, of course, human suffering.
Tom works in publishing, but would prefer to be either an academic, the director of the next Star Wars movie or a stay-at-home dad. He has a doctorate in theology and has written various books and articles on religious and ethical themes, but still hasn’t mastered spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Tom is a member of the Oxford Christadelphian Church.
 A world in motion (Mike and Suzette Thompson)
Population migration, whatever prompts it and wherever it is, is now a fact of life. How should we respond, both as a caring community and as Christ-like individuals?
The opportunities and challenges of integrating a sudden influx of overseas refugees & asylum seekers into our community is highlighted by the wave of Iranians – a wave whose needs are changing the longer they are with us.
What are the current challenges & tasks of this ‘world in motion’? What have we learnt? And what does the experience teach us about ourselves and our own values & lifestyles?
Mike and Suzette have always loved outreach work. It has taken them far and wide, from the beaches of Seaton to the Eastern Europe capital of Moldova, Chisinau. Yet in the last 4 years, the opportunities to share the Gospel have come thick and fast to our church doors in the UK. It has been challenging, exciting, humbling and exhausting. As a simple plumber and primary school teacher, their skills now include repairing bikes, finding school places for young asylum seekers, and getting an emergency dentist for a tooth abscess. Mike and Suzette moved from London to the ‘frozen north’ seven years ago and belong to Kings Heath Christadelphian Church.
 Art Therapy and Spiritual Well-being (Kate Lawrence)
In this group we will be exploring our spiritual, physical and mental health through art.
Using examples from scripture to illustrate key points for a healthy existence in all of these areas.
The emphasis of the group will be around exploration and play, so no particular art skill is required!
 *NEW* The covenant tribe of Adam (John Launchbury)
For a long time I didn’t know what to do with Genesis. The Eden account seemed irreconcilable with multiple branches of physical evidence. However, with one (small?) shift in interpretation, all incompatibilities can be resolved. The shift? That Adam was not the first Homo Sapiens, but the first to be called into a tribal covenant relationship with God. This impacts how we understand the text around the formation of Adam and Eve, the garden, and so on, but surprisingly, very little of our theology is affected by this shift. And Genesis has become exciting again!
John likes to ask questions — of himself and others. He seeks to discover insight and meaning. And he is not shy to push the boundaries of possibility. His passion in studying the scriptures always orients towards the practical essence of Christ’s message. Professionally, John is a scientist entrepreneur, but he is a homebody and family man at his core. His favourite part of the week is playing with his grandkids, but he also enjoys rowing his scull, playing his 5-string bass, and sipping the occasional single malt.
 *NEW* Loving boundaries (Rachel Launchbury)
This workshop looks at boundaries from the perspective of treating ourselves and others with respect and dignity. For some of us, maintaining boundaries can feel very unloving and un-Christlike, and many of us live with muddled versions of boundaries that don’t work and which leave us feeling exhausted and resentful. We will talk about the importance of boundaries, how to create and maintain some of our own, and bust some of the common myths that people hold around boundaries. We will use Galatians 6, and Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend as reference materials. Be prepared for an interactive workshop!
 *NEW* Developing our relationship with God (Stuart Walker)
A relationship with God is fundamental to our spiritual life, yet many find this challenging, seeing that he is Almighty, Omniscient and Omnipotent while we are finite and human. It was thought once that there is only one way, by reading the Bible, engaging in prayer and regular attendance at church. However, I have found that many others say they find this difficult, but are there alternatives? This workshop will enable us to discuss the challenges that we have encountered in developing our relationship with God as we learn from each other, how we feel about that relationship, and what can be done to improve it.
Following ten years at University, Stuart has spent his working life advising the Pharmaceutical Industry and Ministries of Health on Medicines Regulations while also having a teaching role in academia. He has been involved in several charities including CRUSE & Meal A Day, has trained as a counsellor and is a member of Horley Christadelphian Church.
 *NEW* Jesus subverts honour-shame culture (Wendy Johnsen)
Jesus lived in the Honour-Shame culture of the 1st century Greco-Roman empire. We will consider his repeated Honour contests with the Jewish leaders, which led to his shameful death by crucifixion. We will also see how he taught his disciples to deal with the shame they would experience and to look to their Heavenly Father for honour instead. We will be amazed afresh at his teaching, which was counter-cultural, subverting the culture and inverting the norms of honour and shame. This opened the way for radical new Christian communities.
Since completing a Masters in Theological Studies, Wendy has been very interested in studying the cultural backgrounds of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. She is a Palliative Care physician on Vancouver Island in Canada, where she has lived for 30 years, but her early roots were in South Africa. She has enjoyed intermittent mission trips to Kenya with Agape in Action.
 *NEW* Jesus, LGBTQ+ and Inclusion (Sarah Joiner)
We will explore the effects of non-affirming Christian communities on the mental health of LGBTQ+ church members and then reflect as to whether our own treatment of queer people matches the standards of our Lord Jesus Christ. Data from a recent survey of LGBTQ+ people from a Christadelphian background will also be discussed, leading to practical ideas as to how to make our ecclesias safer for everyone. Rather than merely intellectualising issues of sexuality and gender, we need to remember we’re talking about real people. People to be loved. People for whom Christ died.
Sarah is a founding member of the Christadelphian Outreach Group UK (COG) and WCF’s Garden Outreach Initiatives (North America). She is passionate about spreading awareness of outreach as an act of worship – the simple sharing of our food, clothing, skills and time with those affected by poverty and loneliness. Since coming out as bisexual in 2022, she believes that God has pushed her to promote compassionate conversations on LGBTQ+ in our faith community. Along with other brothers and sisters, Sarah has set up the “Christadelphian LGBTQ+ Parent and Grandparent Support Group” on FaceBook. Sarah lives on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales, UK, with her husband, Andy, two kids and two whippets!
 *NEW* Resolving conflict (Tom Peel)
Conflict often happens when the ‘space’ of a conversation or situation is restricted. When we take Jesus’ example of ‘holding space’ open for people and his wisdom for knowing who to hold space open for, we can find conflict turns into something generative from which to learn more about each other and about our relationships. This workshop will look at this idea of holding space in a conversation, not only for others but for ourselves, how we invite others into that space while also asking them to hold space for us.
I belong to Handsworth ecclesia and I run the From the Platform podcast with my wife Naomi, where we look at Christadelphian culture and how to deal with complexity and hold open conversations.
 *NEW* Wholehearted faith (Rosemary Hardy)
Have you ever read the words “Examine yourselves”, or “Let your light shine”, or even “Love your neighbour as yourself” and been unsure what loving yourself looks like? Or who or what your light or self is?
We’ll spend some time seeking how to bring our whole, authentic selves to God and each other. We’ll do that by examining what we are, who we are, and who we want to be.
By the end of the session, we hope to have gained better insight into ourselves and our values, and to have the tools to help us grow in the future.
 *NEW* Word & Truth (Jan Smith)
This will focus mostly on the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, when the New Testament texts are multiple and diverse, and the early church leaders were wrestling with issues of interpretation that have had long-term effects on our understanding of the teaching of the apostles. Was gospel truth compromised, or preserved?
With a degree in Medieval and Modern History, I trained as an archivist at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. I then worked for 35 years as a curator of county collections of manuscripts (10th-20th centuries), giving me a passion for interpreting the source materials of history. I am a member of Newbury ecclesia.
 *NEW* Membership & fellowship (Anthony Whitehorn)
Is there any difference between Membership and Fellowship, and does it matter? As Christadelphians we emphasise the significance of Membership, but we “disfellowship” someone when we don’t “dismember” them! Why be members or have fellowship anyway? Why not just attend? At what stage does attendance become fellowship and fellowship become membership? Can we have fellowship or membership by just attending on-line? So many questions, but what are the answers? Come along and shape those answers……
Anthony is married to Sally, who both attend the church in Maidenhead. He was baptised in 1979 at Kings Heath and then joined Cardiff Museum Place before being transferred to Maidenhead in 1982. Anthony is an active member of the church, believing in its importance in his own personal journey, enabling the spirit to shape him to be the “best version” of himself.
 *NEW* The Christian response to the Climate Crisis (Martin Catchlove)
“If working apart we are a force powerful to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it…cherish the natural world, because you’re a part of it and you depend on it”. Sir David Attenborough
What’s your view on sustainability? Where do you think, as Christians, we can have most impact?
Drawing on insights from CEOs, scientific experts, government and community leaders, in this practical session we’ll build our understanding of sustainability and the escalating climate crisis; through exploring personal and scriptural perspectives, together we’ll aim to increase our awareness and ability to act.
Raised in Australia by the coast, Martin formed an early appetite for the outdoors – hiking and camping outback, blistering summers in the Riverland…venturing further afield. Then he qualified in engineering, where Martin’s work in the energy sector took him offshore in the North Sea, and onwards to the UK Environment Agency in Flood Risk. With further training in psychology, he moved into consulting and also helped run community projects with Meal-a-Day Asia-Pacific. Now based in UK with his family and with an increasing focus on sustainability, Martin works with organisations – businesses, governments, not-for-profits, specialist agencies – to help improve performance and strengthen community resilience.
 *NEW* Creating the music of praise (Tony Stewart)
What makes a good song? If I knew all the answers, I would have made a living out of it! In this session, I’ll share song-writing experiences – how I go about it – as well as some analysis, which might involve a bit of singing. We’ll see that music need be neither complex, nor difficult to be enjoyed. Experience or extensive ability are not prerequisites for song-writing. I consider myself proof of that. The session aims to encourage people, of all tastes and abilities, to go away and ‘have a go’.
 Walk! (James Westmoreland)
As usual there will be an option on the Saturday afternoon to go for a walk.