As we enter the second month of Covid lockdown, it is deeply poignant to think that only two months ago, we were gathering for our National Conference. Looking back, we can see how spot-on the messages were – starting with the initial message….
It is perhaps prophetic that at the very start of the conference, our first speaker spoke about the importance of going first to the Lord for His assistance in hard times. It felt very meaningful when he got us to read Psalm 46 aloud as a group:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
After the first line, our speaker wanted to check that everyone in the room could see it, so that we could read it together:
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed.
And the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
Our speaker encouraged us to say every word with confidence and conviction.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God…
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations rage, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted…
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.
It is amazing to think how relevant the messages were about trusting God in the shaking we are experiencing today.
Another touching element was the sense of community and family at the conference. Even though we come from a range of Christian denominations, backgrounds, types of job and levels of seniority, it was wonderful to see the connections being made across the group. It was special in that context to organise a commissioning of the Revd Jonathan Aitken as our Honorary Chaplain. The stories of commissioning in the Bible are often special, sacred occasions – and it felt that way for Jonathan, who has been a special friend to Christians in Government over the years. Following prayer, Jonathan kindly encouraged us to be confident and strong as Christians, and to pray in all that we do.
Finally, a message that seemed to flow throughout the day was the important role our faith can have as we work in government.
….. Dr Calum Miller (Ravi Zacharias Trust) inspired us with the examples of Daniel and William Wilberforce. Daniel didn’t moan, despite having a lot to moan about. Daniel’s three friends were saved in the fiery furnace – not from it. The key was that they knew they were loved by God. We should rejoice in what we achieve for the Lord (we won’t always see the fruit of our works e.g. Daniel died under Persian rule) but ultimately we need to keep our focus and trust in Him.
….. Emma Stark encouraged us that faith is on the rise and that we are about to see a shift in people coming to know Christ. God gives us power and authority and there is no limit to this as long as we don’t believe we are limited.
….. And Revd Celia Apeagyei-Collins encouraged us to go and read the Bible with a different lens as it has the answers. She urged us to remember that we are significant; the church is given wisdom to govern and when Pharaoh had a dream, it was the church that solved the problem. She encouraged us to ask God to enable us to be a people who solve problems, that as leadership is service we should be aware of what makes our hearts bleed where we are (Nehemiah wept for the nation before taking action), follow with pray, and then speak up.
So as we now go through this Covid-19 experience, we are grateful for the encouragement from this conference. As Psalm 46 concludes: The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.