I am just back from 3 days in misty Pitlochry, staying at the Atholl Palace Hotel, for our annual Clergy Conference. We always have a guest speaker at these events and this year was no exception. However, I have come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter too much who the speaker is. Really, the best bit is getting away from the parish to nice surroundings and meeting up with colleagues and friends. We may have theologies which divide us, but we also have things which unite us. For a start, we are all stipendiary clergy and it is really important that we do get time together to share the things which frustrate, please and puzzle us. Over the years the group has changed. People come and people go, but the main body stays the same. With +Brian at the helm we have grown closer together. Things which were a cause for arguement and disagreement have been dealt with openly and we have found a way to move on in harmony. I’m not exactly sure how it was done, but it has worked. Some of it is due to the fact that we have had time out to listen to one another’s stories, over dinner, in the bar, or sitting round the log fire with a cup of coffee.
Sadly, our speakers don’t always get the opportunity to do that. Often they come from outwith the the Diocese, Province or the SEC. I’m sure they are given a briefing by the Bishop and/or the planning group on the planned topic and I hope they ask about the participants. Sometimes that is more evident than others. But having just recently had an evening of listening to my new little flock’s stories, I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to one another. It has to be a two-way process. Of course we are a diverse group so I guess it takes more than a brief conversation to figure out where we are all coming from, and that will be different in many cases. The best way of dealing with this is to allow dialogue to happen during the course of the conference. Top-down lecturing is never the way to go. It makes us feel like schoolchildren – and we are likely to behave accordingly.
So, what did we talk about while we were away? Well, we listened to a lot of metaphors about the church and mission. We heard from the new Diocesan Deliverance Officer and had good discussions on spirit possession and other such manifestations. We talked about discerning vocations and about our own journeys. The food was excellent, the views misty and atmospheric, the log fires were cosy and most important of all – there was a Sale on at the House of Bruar.