written by Jo Collison
I didn’t tell many people that I would be going to the Leadership conference because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t actually lead anything at King’s Church. I’ve also never been to a New Ground event despite being a part of New Ground for nearly ten years, so I entered the venue at Burgess Hill feeling a little bit like a fraud. Ten minutes into the worship, however, and I started to feel more at home. The presence of God was in the room, and it’s impossible to feel out of place when God shows up. God also didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t actually a leader. I think He had His own reasons for wanting me there that went beyond the sessions and seminars.
Part of our vision statement as a church is to ‘be known’, something I’ve been struggling with since joining the church. Busyness and loneliness so often go hand-in-hand in this city and I’ll admit that I have often felt lonely at church despite being involved in serving teams and life groups. Don’t misunderstand me, I have always felt welcomed, wanted and loved at this church, but I have never truly felt known.
That all started to shift at the Leadership conference. For the first time, I felt like I was able to get to know people in the wider church. I suppose the enforced camaraderie of long drives and getting lost will do that for you, but there was also something about the atmosphere at the conference that seemed to make people open up to each other in new ways. Sharing coffee and babysitting duties quickly merged into sharing ideas in sessions and sharing meals together in the evenings and before I knew it, I felt like I was part of a real community.
For the first time, I also felt truly part of a wider family of churches. I always knew that there were other churches in New Ground, but it’s one thing to know it and quite another to experience it. Being in a room with people from all over Europe who are sharing ideas and offering to help and serve each other was wonderful. From feeling like I fraud, I was now listening to descriptions of projects being run at other churches and thinking about how I would like to do the same in Kingston. Somewhere along the way I had stopped thinking of myself as a temporary resident in the church and had decided to fully adopt the church as my own. Here I was, planning events and courses in my mind, wondering if I could visit other churches and learn from them, dreaming about the future. God had shown me where I belong.
I might not have been a leader at the start of the conference, and I definitely have a long way to go, but I will happily rise to the challenge now for the place I call home.