Rev David Thompson, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Congregational Life and Witness
In any normal given year, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) would hold a number of conferences and training events designed to equip its members in various areas of church life and ministry.
With large-scale in-person face-to-face events no longer viable, the Church has launched its first digital conference, as part of a new series of resources called ‘Refined’.
Explaining the thinking behind the new development, Rev David Thompson, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Congregational Life and Witness (CCLW) said that different times often necessitate a different way of doing things.
“At the start of February we welcomed 250 people from across the denomination to Assembly Buildings in Belfast for a conference on an important area of church life. Since then, restrictions on gathering, due to the Covid pandemic, have meant that we can no longer organise events like that.
“What we have done, as a result, is look at what we can do with the people and technology available to us, which is why we are pleased to be able to launch our first ever digital conference. Its theme is ‘Refined’ and can be used to help our congregations explore God’s refining work in our church life at this particular time,” Mr Thompson said.
Following on from the ‘These Three Remain’ initiative, which saw a range of resources developed in response to lockdown in March 2020, Refined is a new programme of resources for supporting and developing congregational life and witness, which the digital conference forms and an important part.
Produced in two video formats, the material could be shared, or watched with others online, or in a variety of small socially distanced church settings. They also offer something to tune into for individual personal devotions. The 50-minute version features a message from Rev Dr Neil Hudson, preacher, popular author, church consultant, and working pastor in Salford Elim church in Greater Manchester.
Dr Hudson’s message, which is based on 1 Corinthians 3: 9-17, is followed by a panel discussion facilitated by Rick Hill, PCI's discipleship development officer, between the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce and Rev Nigel McCullough.
Along with Dr Hudson’s talk, it is hoped that the panel discussion will also stimulate conversation. Other features invite participants to reflect personally and respond to God in prayer and praise. A shorter 30-minute version is also available.
Welcoming the Refined programme of resources, and the first digital conference to come out of this latest initiative in particular, Dr Bruce said that this new way of gathering digitally is very different from what the church is used to. “No one could have guessed at the start of the year that we would be where we are today.
“In making use of these great new resources, I hope that they will help us all, as a Presbyterian family across this island, to try and make sense of this new place that we find ourselves.
"Even though the future may not fully resemble the past we have known, God is walking beside us in every rough step. These resources will also help us to seek His leading and guiding for this next season in church life together, even when we can’t yet map every single step ahead of us. But in each of those steps, He is with us and we follow Him closely by faith,” he said.
he added: “We will come through this and we will be stronger for these days of testing and refining. And to everyone who has used their God given skills to bring us these resources, a huge thank you.”
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