A member of St Chrysostom’s sneaked into the SCP (Society of Catholic Priests) 2016 conference for several of the sessions and meals. What did our spy discover?
It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with the SCP conference and wonderful to meet such a friendly, joyous group of people.
The conference kicked off with ‘Mary, Inspiration and Challenge’, a series of readings and music honouring Mary. I found this extraordinarily moving. I was brought up Roman Catholic, with an image of Mary as a young girl, ‘meek and mild’. I couldn’t relate to this Mary. Many of the readings talked of Mary as a real person who held her child’s hand, whose child died much too young, a Mary who belongs to other faiths too. I can relate to this woman and recognise her in the faces of refugee mothers trying to protect their children, mothers I’ve seen visiting their children in prison, mothers queuing at food banks.
That night, I met with a Mary that I know and recognise. I felt able to join in with the Angelus in a way that felt authentic.
Another highlight of the conference was ‘Personal Challenges, renewal and transformation’. Four speakers shared their personal stories. They all spoke well. I was particularly struck by Tareq, a Syrian refugee and Nick, who had been trafficked to the UK. They spoke so openly and honestly. They did not sanitise their experiences. Nick spoke very honestly of his relationship with God and of the times that he felt he could manage on his own, something that most of us in the room could relate to at times. I was really surprised to discover in discussion afterwards that some of the priests present had never heard an asylum seeker’s story first hand before, and couldn’t help wondering if this raises a question for the church about inclusivity and welcome.
Catherine Fox’s after dinner speech was wonderful.
There are times when I despair of the Church of England, but spending the last few days with a group of fundamentally good people, who are both joyful and passionate about their ministry was an inspiration to me as I look forward to my final year of training for this strange thing called ordination.