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Launching with the spectacular premiere of a new dramatisation of the Gospel of John, the Diocesan Conference for The Church of England in Lancashire got under way yesterday (Monday). 

The conference – our first for four years because of the pandemic – and with the title 'That You May Have Faith' runs until Thursday and is a ‘deep dive’ into John’s Gospel. There are key speakers and performers from our Diocese and beyond as our Diocese continues to embed its Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.  

The venue for the event is The Hayes, a large Christian conference centre in Swanwick, and more than 300 clergy and lay people from across Lancashire are attending with many more people watching online via livestreams. The conference is sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance and CCLA Investments. Social media hashtag is #havefaith22 

  • Diocesan Conference speakers biographies
  • Full conference programme at a glance
  • Main conference website page

Nearly all parishes in the Diocese are represented and delegates will hear the following keynote speakers across the week (with links to their own short video introductions on social media added where currently available): 

  • The Revd Canon Dr Michael Leyden, Dean of the North West’s Emmanuel Theological College 
  • Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund 
  • Rachel Gardner, founder of the Romance Academy who on team at youth work organisation Youthscape and Youth Innovation Lead at St Luke’s Church in Blackburn 
  • Revd Canon Dr Anderson H M Jeremiah, a Senior Lecturer of World Christianity at University of Lancaster 
  • Dr Deborah Lewer, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow 
  • Prof. Richard Bauckham, Biblical scholar and theologian 

These keynotes are interspersed with a variety of workshops; a lot of great worship opportunities in a variety of styles as well as time to relax and network.

Music in a variety of styles throughout the conference is being coordinated by Rev. Pete Gunstone from Fountains Church, Bradford and entertainment on Wednesday evening is provided by Christian comedian Andy Kind.  

Speaking in a video, also available on social media, Rt Rev. Philip North, Acting Bishop of Blackburn, said: “The last few years have been really tough for clergy and lay leaders as we have coped with Covid and the shutdown of our churches and as we have had to reach out to our communities in new ways.  

“My prayer for the next few days is for it to be a time of rich, rich renewal for those involved in leading churches across Lancashire as we meet Jesus anew in the pages of John and find our faith renewed and our commitment to service re-doubled.” 

The conference timetable; speaker biographies; livestream links and more can all be accessed/downloaded via this ‘one stop’ page on the Diocesan website. Further updates will also appear in the news section of our website and there will be conference photo album soon on flickr; growing as the conference progresses and completed afterwards. 

The new dramatic presentation of John’s Gospel featured intense, emotional and inspirational scenes, all accompanied by exciting and at times soaring and inspirational music choices. It was conceived by Rev. James Gwyn-Thomas, recently of Buckshaw Village Church near Chorley and now a vicar in Yorkshire.  

Working with actors and musicians from our Diocese (Buckshaw again) and churches in Leeds Diocese, James and the crew premiered the drama for the first time at the conference to great acclaim. Now the premiere has taken place, the script/props list/music suggestions etc will be made available soon on the Diocesan website as a resource for parishes everywhere to take advantage of and present in their own settings.  

Speaking on social media after their performance, James said: “We put it together over the last few months and we haven’t had that many rehearsals! We hope that presenting it for the first time in front of so many representatives from parishes in the Diocese and now releasing this script, encourages other to say ‘maybe we can do this’.  

“We have written it in such a way that other churches can do it; it’s very heavy on narrators instead of learning an awful lot of lines so we hope that people feel they can give it a go, whether or not they have acted before.” 

Summing up the tangible anticipation for what lies ahead in another video on our social channels, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster added: “I’m praying there will be a deep dive, not just into scripture but into our relationships as a Diocesan family. 

“I pray too that many people will be able to join us online via the livestreams and also social media where the hashtag is #havefaith22. May this be a time of great faith, great fellowship, great fun, in the name of Jesus.” 

Social media: We are live tweeting using #havefaith22 on our Twitter account @cofelancs and regular posts throughout can be found on Facebook/BlackburnDiocese 

Captions:  Picture credit for A and B: Ronnie Semley 

Pic A - Delegates during opening worship at the Diocesan Conference  

Pic B - Rev. James Gwyn-Thomas (left) with actors and narrators who took part in the new dramatic presentation of John’s Gospel