By Stuart Mann
Are you a lay person who wants to share the Gospel with people outside your church but you don’t know how?
If so, consider attending the Vital Church Planting conference, held at St. Paul, Bloor Street on Feb 2-4. The last day of the conference—Saturday, Feb. 4—will focus on teaching lay people how to start fresh expressions of church.
“Saturday is for people who see a need in their community to reach people with the Gospel of Christ,” says the Rev. Anna Spray, an associate priest at St. Bride, Clarkson, and one of the conference organizers. “It’s for people who care about seeing the church reaching out beyond its borders.”
The conference is usually held in the middle of the week, but this year’s gathering will include the Saturday so that lay people can attend. “We really want to make space for lay leaders,” says Ms. Spray.
Saturday will include plenary sessions and workshops led by lay people and clergy who have experience in planting new churches. One of the speakers will be David Male, one of the pioneers of the fresh expression movement in England.
The Rev. Canon Al Budzin, incumbent of St. Philip, Etobicoke, has brought lay people from his church to previous conferences, and plans to do so again this year. He says lay participation in the conference has borne fruit back in his parish.
“It opens up their minds and eyes and hearts to seeing St. Philip’s in a different way,” he says. Since attending the conference, Canon Budzin and his parishioners have started Messy Church, the Pints of View Chapel at the local Army Navy Club, and a community lunch with a neighbouring church.
He says clergy should take as many people as they can to the conference, even if it’s just for the Saturday. “It’s a powerful experience. It’s worth taking the risk. It’s an excellent investment in ministry.”
All three days of the conference will include plenary sessions and workshops for all people, both clergy and lay. “There’s always a sense of excitement and it’s a good time to connect with people,” says Ms. Spray.
Since it began six years ago, attendance has climbed from 60 to 150. Last year’s conference was sold out. “What’s really exciting is seeing how far this has come,” says Ms. Spray. “It’s amazing to see the growth that has happened. We’ve come a long way in a short time.”
The conference is co-sponsored by the diocese and Wycliffe College’s Institute of Evangelism. For information on how to register, visit the conference’s website, http://vitalchurchplanting.com/. Watch the video.