The clergy of the diocese gather every two years for a much anticipated clergy conference at Brock University in St. Catharines. It is a time for learning and being together with colleagues and friends. The highlight of the conference is always the guest speaker. Past luminaries have included Bishop William Willimon, the Rev. Dr. Tex Sample and Archbishop Rowan Williams.
This year, we were profoundly blessed by the erudition and teaching of Canon Dr. Paula Gooder, who spoke on the topic, “Preaching Luke: Hope for our Times.” Dr. Gooder is the theologian-in-residence for the Bible Society (UK), the canon theologian of Birmingham and Guildford cathedrals, and a lay canon of Salisbury Cathedral. She is also the author of several books.
While an expert in the writings of St. Paul, Dr. Gooder writes and speaks on a variety of New Testament topics, both to clergy and lay people. At this year’s clergy conference, she spoke on “the parables of the lost and found” in Luke 15 – the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In her excellent lectures, which invited much audience participation, she exploded our notion of parables in general, and, in particular, challenged some conventional readings of Luke 15. Parishioners around the diocese will likely hear some refreshing interpretations of these and others parables from the pulpit in the coming months. It was widely acknowledged that Dr. Gooder’s presentation was one of the best in recent memory. It was refreshing to be able to examine scripture together as clergy and to reconsider many of our assumptions around a very familiar set of biblical texts.
One afternoon of every conference is given over to rest and relaxation. Several activities were available, the most popular being the wine tour. Other opportunities included fencing, golf, walking, biking, jogging the local trails or simply browsing the excellent displays provided by suppliers of church goods.
The event is always shaped by worship and prayer, and concludes with a celebration of the Eucharist. This year, in place of a homily, Archbishop Colin Johnson moderated a panel with Dr. Gooder, Bishop Philip Poole, and the Rev. Dr. Catherine Sider-Hamilton, in which we were given the opportunity to reflect on Dr. Gooder’s lectures.
This year’s conference was organized by Bishop Peter Fenty and the York-Simcoe Episcopal Area. Many thanks to the members of the committee and especially Jennipher Kean and Swan Li for their support.