The new South England Conference (SEC) leadership hit the ground running on January 9 at their annual Evangelism Expo held at Newbold College of Higher Education in Bracknell.
In just four months since taking office, the leaders, alongside department heads, have engaged in extensive deliberations, prayers, and consultations to chart the conference’s new course. Their direction of travel could not be clearer. “Christ in our hearts. Christ in our homes. Christ in our churches. Christ on the streets.”
Picture this — a bitterly cold Berkshire day on the first Sunday of January, with most members traveling from up to two to four hours across the territory to gather at the Newbold campus auditorium by 10:00 a.m. Approximately 1,000 local leaders, driven by their commitment to the mission, congregated to explore how to embody these values amidst the rapidly changing world around them.
For leaders, the Evangelism Expo delved beyond the usual “how to” and novel ideas. It grappled with change and “paradigm shifts,” addressing new cultural realities surrounding the church.
“It is critically important for us to be aware of this,” said Roger Hernandez, ministerial and evangelism director for the Southern Union Conference, United States, and the first keynote speaker. Quoting Dan White, a church planter in the U.S., Hernandez emphasized the vital importance of understanding how Christian beliefs intersect with a culture repelled by “absolute truth,” “combative dialogue,” “demonization” of groups, “ideological border policing,” and “shaming” to ostracize.
Hernandez’s ministry partner and wife, Kathy, specializing in hospitality ministry, echoed their vision in a video shared during the presentation, highlighting the need to extend care beyond a simple greeting to guests.
Karen Glassford, digital evangelism manager for Communication and Media Ministries at the General Conference (GC), followed suit. She underscored the rapid growth of digital evangelism and initiated a collaborative project with SEC Communication and Media to pilot digital evangelism models with select churches. The potential impact of this project on connecting with an increasingly online community drew praise from attendees like Elizabeth Taslmacsi, a Brighton, Hove, and Worthing district member. “People who live in our large towns and cities are quite isolated. We do not know our neighbors; we are afraid to talk about our faith.… [This initiative] will create opportunities for greater involvement of members,” she said.
The morning’s final plenary session, led by SEC president Kirk Thomas, conveyed a clear message: “It’s time to learn and move on from the past.” He called for renewal, growth, and a willingness to embrace change. Thomas urged leaders to “Go” and be “Inspired for Mission,” emphasizing Christ as the center of the SEC strategy.
As the day progressed, 23 workshops, primarily run by SEC administrators and department directors, provided local leaders with a chance to engage with the new leadership. These workshops offered valuable insights into the new vision.
Three sample seminars reflected the depth of the agenda:
Commenting on the workshop, Bernie Holford, newly appointed as the pastor of the Hemel Hempstead church, said, “As an older person who hasn’t engaged with Facebook very much, I’ve realized just how powerful the digital evangelism approach could be from what Karen Glassford has been presenting today.”
The day concluded with participants mingling and reconnecting outside workshops, visiting the Stanborough Press store, and exploring various ministry exhibits.
“The vision persists,” church leaders said. “Christ in our hearts, our homes, our churches, and on the streets. It is a vision that begins with Christ in our hearts.”