Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Delegates representing all Down & Dromore parishes attend major
Church Growth conference 'Ready, Steady, Grow'

On Saturday 24th November around 300 delegates representing all parishes in the Diocese of Down & Dromore attended a major conference on Church Growth appropriately given the catchy title 'Ready, Steady, Grow'. The morning and afternoon seminars, which were led by experts in church growth, were held in newly refurbished Willowfield Parish Church and St Clement Parish Church in inner city East Belfast.

The Rev Canon Norman Jardine (Rector of St Jude's, Ballynafeigh) welcomed the delegates. In an inspirational keynote address, the Church of Ireland Bishop of the Diocese of Down & Dromore, the Right Revd Harold Miller opened the conference saying 'It is wonderful to meet with key people from the diocese to look at how God can grow His church. We are truly grateful to see the many ways in which the Church of Ireland in this diocese has been experiencing God's blessing over the years - we have more leaders than ever (including 24 youth workers in parishes), increased financial giving and larger-than-ever congregations at key times like Christmas'. The Bishop went on to say 'The Diocese has also experienced the largest number of confirmations and ordinations in ten years. However, we also have challenges including fewer infants being baptized, and decreasing numbers in Sunday schools'.

Bishop Harold issued a challenge to the diocese - 'Make Sunday worship a glimpse of heaven'. He continued, 'turn churches outwards in engagement with the community and experiment with new ways of being a church in the 21st century'.

Bishop Harold also launched a new initiative to invite those who had never been confirmed or baptized to consider the possibility of exploring the faith and becoming full members of the church. Fifteen hundred 'Come on' on in' cards have been printed to be given to those who may wish to be baptized or confirmed in the coming year.

Amongst the panel of seminar leaders were the Revd George Lings, Director of the Church Army Research Unit in Sheffield and the Revd Mark Melluish, Vicar of St Paul's, Ealing, London, who is a well-known church growth specialist.

The seminars on offer varied from 'Mission to the more affluent', 'What can we learn about mission from the church overseas'', 'How healthy is your church'' to 'Why do young people not go to church'' and 'Why do men not go to church''.