Greg Goldsworthy loves his parish of All Saints, Collingwood, but his year just wouldn’t be complete without attending the annual FLAME (Fellowship & Learning for Anglican Men’s Enrichment) Conference. He has been attending the event for more than 25 years and says it’s an essential part of his faith journey.
“It’s like being spiritually fed,” says Mr. Goldsworthy, the group’s treasurer. “Getting 60, 70 or 80 men in a room singing and praising God – that’s an incredible feeling.”
This year’s conference is being held Sept. 20-22 at Jackson’s Point Conference Centre, located on the south shore of Lake Simcoe near the town of Sutton. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer, the diocese’s interfaith officer. The theme will be “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).
Mr. Goldsworthy says this year’s conference will be especially relevant, given recent headlines about the killing of Muslims and Christians in their places of worship. “At a time when there is so much acrimony in the world and distrust of other faiths and heritages, we’re really looking forward to hearing from Gary and having him join us,” he says.
In his role as the diocese’s interfaith officer, Canon van der Meer is involved in local efforts to promote understanding and goodwill between Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths. He has participated in “Rings of Peace” around churches, mosques and synagogues in Toronto in response to violent attacks in the city and elsewhere.
Mr. Goldsworthy says the annual conference gives men an opportunity to talk about their faith, their lives and the issues of the day in an open and safe way. “Whatever road you’re walking, we’re here to walk beside you,” he says.
He says the conversations among the men at the conferences have often led to lasting relationships. “There’s usually a lot of candour, because what’s said in the small groups stays in the small groups,” he says.
The weekend will include three plenary talks and a homily by Canon van der Meer, small-group discussions and worship. There will be plenty of food and free time. The conference will begin with a supper on Friday evening and end after lunch on Sunday. The registration fee, including room, all meals and snacks, and the program itself, is $275 for a shared room or $380 for a private room. Bursaries are available for those who cannot afford the fee. First-time attendees have a special rate of $175.
This will be the 64th conference, which has a long and storied history in the diocese. The first official FLAME conference was held in 1955 at the former Guild Inn in Toronto, led by the Rev. Canon Bryan Green and attended by about 75 men. The gathering has been held in several other locations since then and has had an impressive lineup of speakers, including Bishop Desmond Hunt, Archbishop Herb O’Driscoll, Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley of Coventry Cathedral, Bishop Patrick Yu, Bishop Mark MacDonald and the Rev. Dale Lang, an Anglican cleric whose son was shot to death in Alberta in 1999.
“All have inspired us on our walk and in our daily lives,” says Mr. Goldsworthy, who is passionate about helping other men get to know Jesus Christ. “Not only do I get spiritually fed at the conference, but I’m allowed the opportunity to relate to other people and share my own experience. That’s a reflection of what God is asking me to do. God gives us talents and asks us to use them to spread his grace.”
He says many men have come to know Jesus, or draw closer to him, at the conference. “It’s a place where men can come, meet with friends, old or new, to hear the truth about Jesus Christ. Perhaps for the first time they realize what it means to accept him as lord and saviour.”
To register for the FLAME conference, visit www.flameconferencetoronto.ca.