Breaking the Trend-Difficult Conversations
2nd February 2018
'Difficult conversations' within the church environment centre around those delicate issues that no-one really wants to address. The elephant in the room looms large and loud, throws it weight around, because it is an elephant and often we stand around, sing ever the louder, or stare in disbelief or we bury our heads in the sand. And when asked how can we deal with the large beast in the room we turn and answer, 'What elephant?'
However, on Sabbath 27 January, the Diversity and Women's Ministries departments of the South England Conference (SEC), led the way in organising a full day's programme at the Rock Towel in North London, centred around the building connections and creating belonging. The brainchild for this event was spawned out of a residential departmental directors' meeting in the Autumn of 2017, where, "the directors decided it was time to do something different and to address the elephant in the room." These words uttered by SEC President Dr Emmanuel Osei introduced the programme and opened the day's proceedings.
And the day was different in several ways. Church members are generally accustomed to the morning Bible study hour to involve a solitary individual teaching or facilitating from the podium. However, this was replaced by, 'Welcome Visitors' ‒ a dramatic presentation, performed by members of the Agape Theatre Group. The sentiments in the play were mirrored in the matinee performance of the production, with the difference being the audience participation led by Mark Grey. Issues surrounding domestic violence, multiculturalism, sexuality and family issues were addressed.
These issues were also featured in the early afternoon's four workshops. Domestic Abuse and the Church was led by Maslin Holness and Lorraine Anderson, Multicultural Church: Can it work? was facilitated by Sophia Nicholls, Pastor Adrian Peck and Dr Valerie Bernard-Allan. Dr Augustus Lawrence spoke on Family Issues during this workshop and Pastor Gregg Wilson addressed the issue of The Feminine Church to a male-dominated audience.
In the Family Service time, Pastor Anthony Fuller, based his open and frank sermon about Luke 5:27-31, and explored the narrative of Levi Matthew the tax collector, who Jesus called as one of his disciples. Drawing on his own experience as a young person, he identified with the central character in the story and stated that, "I'm so sick of playing church." He urged his listeners to start being real and tell the truth about the challenges that we face because 'too many of us are liars' seeking to be who we are not. He rounded off, by encouraging the attendees to 'break the trend' or pretending to be loving and kind and caring and start 'being real' because if "Jesus can call Levi Matthew, a despised tax collector and if He can call me, Anthony Fuller, He can call anyone."
Inclusion was evident throughout the programme with the number of 'signers' that were present on the day to 'translate' the service to the group of auditory impaired attendees. Music was also diverse. Praise and Worship was led by Marsha Brooks and featured mainly contemporary gospel music. Cecelia Wickham Anderson led both Harrow and Chelmsford Community Choirs ‒ musical groups that she conducts on a regular basis in their own communities. Resurrection ‒ past and present female members of the London Adventist Chorale provided a flavour of well-constructed harmonies and the Bebe Family from Romania, provided the exuberant tones reminiscent of the three tenors. Additional music from a younger age group was provided by Edmonton Central Children's Choir, Kerri-Ann & Co and Yemi.
Speaking about this event, Dr Osei stated, "I would like to thank the two departments who organised this event and also value the contributions made by Prayer and Children's Ministries, Cornerstone Counselling Service, ASNA, Margaret Dawn Designs, Men's and Family Ministries. I would also like to thank all those who were involved in the planning of the event, especially Thomas Mwadime, who hosted the day." He continued, "Further diversity events will be held around the Conference over the next few months and I would encourage all our members to look out for these events and do their best to attend."
[Catherine Anthony Boldeau]