Around 70 of us, mostly civil servants, gathered at the Ministry of Justice on Saturday 2 March for our National Conference. It was a brilliant opportunity to come together with colleagues from across government to share fellowship, plenty of food, to worship together and to listen to some top class speakers.
After a spirit-filled time of worship, led by our own Alan Bowden from the DfE, our opening speaker was Dr Krish Kandiah, who challenged us to realise that we have more in common with our atheist colleagues than we might think and shared some new ideas about how to connect with them. We then heard from an inspiring senior civil servant, Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, who shared some moving stories of how her faith had helped her in her job and provoked roars of laughter with a hilarious job interview story.
After Christianne, we were able to hear encouraging stories from across the Christians in Government network, with representatives from our Senior Civil Servants group and our Young CIG Network. Margaret, one of the Co-Chairs of CIG, shared the CIG vision for prayer, and in particular the National Call to Prayer that we are putting out ahead of the UK leaving the EU on 29 March. Anne Quiggin from the MOD told us how she had started a network in her building, which had expanded rapidly to cover the whole of the UK. It’s so encouraging to hear what God is doing across the civil service.
After a slap-up lunch, we split into two seminar streams. One stream focussed on spiritual resilience, and the other on Britain’s Christian heritage. In the first stream, Caroline Anderson explored how to get rid of negative beliefs which limit us and replace them with life-giving beliefs that enable us to thrive. After her, Robert Parry focussed on how we hear God in our everyday lives and how this might impact us where we work. In the second stream, Dr James Patrick did a comprehensive overview of the whole sweep of British history, sharing familiar stories but with a Christian perspective that is seldom heard. Ben Virgo of Christian Heritage London zoomed in on some individual stories from the past to encourage us in our work today.
We ended the day by hearing from an Ethiopian Pastor, Pastor Girma Bishaw, about the transformational power that words can have. If, instead of criticising and complaining, we look for the best in others and seek to be grateful, it can change the whole way we look at the world.
Feedback from those who attended was very positive, with everyone who attended rating the day as either good or very good. Several people commented that they would happily have stayed longer and that it we should aim to get more people there next year. If you missed it this year, do come and join us in 2020!