Provincial Conference cancelled

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (well Aberdeen actually in 1991) I attended my first Provincial Conference. I even have the mug to prove it.  I’d only been going to church a few years and was throwing myself into it all wholeheartedly as new converts do. When I heard about the Conference and that the main speaker was Robert Runcie and that only two people from each congregation could go, I pleaded with my Rector to be allowed to attend. I paid one third, the parish another third and the diocese the final third.  (£95 in total if I remember correctly).  It was a great conference. Robert Runcie turned out to be a very entertaining speaker so that was a bonus. We all had little ‘family groups’ where we met each morning and I got to know some of the pretty well. But what I really loved was the social side of it – the rubbing shoulders with the great and the good (and the not so great or good) of the church. Of sharing stories over a glass of vino or two or more. And I got a mug.

The next Conference was about 5 years later in St Andrew’s and the main speaker was Desmond Tutu so I was first to sign up again. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear DT?  The other speaker was a Bishop whose name I can’t remember just now but was from New Westminster, Canada but used to be a curate at Old St Paul’s, if I remember correctly. We met in a marquee and it howled a gale for most of it but what a treat. Both speakers were excellent and I mean really high calibre. My ‘family group’ was good and who can forget those evenings in the bar?

I missed the Marcus Borg one which I believe was another goodie. But I did go to the last one. No big names this time – well Rowan Williams did come to do one session but we were told not to ask the big burning question of the day (can you be a homosexual and still be a churchmember/priest/bishop?). The main speakers were Kathy Galloway and a Church of Scotland minister. That’s two Presbyterians.  Many of the family/house groups didn’t work. And the underlying current was just never allowed to be brought out into the open.

This year’s Conference was to be held in October. The speakers were to be Bishop Stephen Cottrill, Annabel Goldie, and another Church of Scotland minister. That’s an Englishman, a Tory and a Presbyterian. I’m sorry but this is the SEC and that big burning question of the day is still not really being addressed and is unlikely to at this rate. The subject was that old chestnut – Five Marks of Mission. It was to be in Aviemore in  a nice hotel this time so I signed up. Not because of the speakers, I have to admit, but because it was in a nice hotel and I do enjoy the craic. Then I heard Ms Goldie has pulled out because it clashed with the Tory Party Conference. Do they not have diaries?  It has now been cancelled because not enough folk have signed up. I wonder why?

Here’s why I think it failed.

  • The speakers were not big names, not crowd pullers.  I mean I have heard of Stephen Cottrill and Annabel Goldie or Eric Cramb but I wonder how many of my flock have heard of them all. Or would pay good money to hear them.
  • You had to book months/years ahead. And you couldn’t book online. People just don’t want to commit to that kind of thing so far ahead. And there is no closing date for applications on the website.
  • It was expensive. The cost was about £300 for two days. But this time each diocese had a different method of assistance – or not. In our case, you could pay half and your parish the other half. We did not have a Diocesan allowance for financial help.
  • Do people want to talk about Mission?

So there we have it. It has now been cancelled. A pile of money has been wasted in meetings, facilitators trained and hours of preparation and planning. Deposit cheques have bounced right, left and centre because they were held on to for months and months before cashing.

Who would you have wanted to hear at a Conference?


21 thoughts on “Provincial Conference cancelled

  1. I don’t even know it the speakers needed to be ‘crowd pullers’ – as long as the topic everyone wanted to talk about was at least given an airing, no?
    Tho’ would maybe have been really rather cool to have invited Gene Robinson to speak….

  2. Is this really true, Ruth? For a moment I thought it was a belated April Fool! I don’t know about speakers, but surely there is something here about subject matter, location, ease of booking and the old ecclesiastical chestnut of cost. The other bitter reality being that in 1991 I guess there were quite a few more Episcopalians than there are now and the ‘conference-going’ remnant among them are maybe now too old? Sad though.

  3. MP, there ain’t a pole in the land that’s strong enough for that. But I can see the attraction of a comedian. ‘How others see us’ with Stephen Fry. That would be cool. Cooler than Kelvin doing the full monty imho. (Sorry Kelvin!)

  4. Yes, really true David. Although you wouldn’t know it from the website which still says the closing date is the end of April. And that’s what I mean!

  5. I’m really gutted about this. I was so looking forward to just catching up with lots of folk in the Province I haven’t seen for years and, although I didn’t fancy the speakers really, or the subject material, I would have gone with an open mind.

    I long for the old RCC!

    However, Ruth, you are touching on the truth when you suggest that a subject matter which meets the whole LGBT thing head on may have been a great crowd puller! (We’re still not allowed to get it all out in the open and have a good go at it!)

    If we are to be a “listening” Church, then here was a great opportunity to to speak, hear, and really really listen! I often despair.

  6. As long as they keep ducking the questions and avoiding conflict the speaker’s name does not matter.

    One of your comment0rs said she was looking forward to renewing acquaintances. That is the problem — when that is the attraction you necessarily have a declining fan base!

  7. It has been brought to my attention that only one cheque bounced in the Edinburgh Diocese. (But I have heard of others elsewhere.) And my cheque was sent on 29 September 2008 and cashed at the beginning of March 2009. Just for the record.

  8. I would have gone because going is better than not going — and I would have enjoyed seeing people. But I felt no excitement at any of the material that was meant to focus our discussions, nor was I sure that there was going to be enough space for open discussion of things that matter (and while I think any honest conversation about the church must include matters to do with the Anglican Communion, human sexuality, justice and inclusion, all of that is part of a wider discussion about what we are called to who we we are becoming.)

  9. Oh…that’s really sad. Stephen C is one of the best speakers I’ve heard, -seriously – though I agree not a crowd puller – but to have an opportunity like that and dodge the elephant in the room …oh dear. How VERY ecclesiastical 😦

  10. “(We’re still not allowed to get it all out in the open and have a good go at it!)”

    There’s your answer, folks. Get it all out in the open, and have a go at it. The crowds will come.

    I didn’t say that. Kenny said it.

  11. I’ll actually second Kathryn’s statement about Stephen being a good speaker, he recently spoke at St Pauls Cathedral about Mission! Obviously it was going to be his warm up! Talk was entitled”We’re all Athenians now! Learning from Paul’s missionary journeys how to be a missionary church.”

    The cost was a major factor of people not attending I believe but also equally as mentioned the speakers and the subject matter wasn’t relevant to many people.

    I was (from what I remember) the youngest person at the last provincial conference. I thought it was good, I do agree with you Ruth about the underlying current not being allowed out into the open.
    I have matured a lot over the past few years into the SEC and I think I would enjoy the conference a lot more now.
    Another thing was that they wanted to involve the young people with this one, I don’t think they quite went about it the right way – for one there was no discount for them!

    So what should be looked at? As DC said, cost, location and yes as we’ve all mentioned – the booking.
    Since the forms need to be signed I think for the first few months people could maybe sign up online to show interest, then if interest is high enough set a date and have cheques and online payment methods set up.
    The fact that the closing date for applications changed about 3 times, was only on the application form itself and was never properly communicated online is also a problem.

    Cost aside I was going for the craic mainly it has to be said. The subject matter was a bit meh to me, I can see in a way why people were fired up about it but it’s worn ground, lets get something with context!

  12. Thanks Grandmere Mimi for your comment. I have admired you from afar for such a long time! Getting it all out in the open is really the big problem and I suspect it ain’t going to happen.

  13. Pingback: Provincial Conference Cancelled | What's in Kelvin's Head

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