In March 2020, a General Ministerial Conference of the Living Church of God had to be cancelled abruptly because of the newly spreading COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of this disappointment, two years later we were greatly blessed to begin conducting in-person conferences again. Between May and August of 2022, we held six ministerial conferences: four in the United States, and one each in Australia and Canada. A leadership conference was also held in the United Kingdom, with online participants from all over the continent of Africa.
Four U.S. regional conferences were held around the country: South Bend, Indiana, (May 15–17), with 30 in attendance; Ogden, Utah, (June 26–28) with 30 in attendance; Little Rock, Arkansas, (August 7–9) with 71 in attendance; and Charlotte, North Carolina, (August 28–30) with 110 in attendance. Many commented that the smaller groups created a particular closeness both in spending time with each other and getting to better know the Headquarters ministry who were present. A total of 241 ministers, wives, and ministerial widows participated in the three-day events, which began with Sunday afternoon sessions and concluded on Tuesday mornings.
Evangelists Gerald Weston and Douglas Winnail conducted the meetings, focusing on our mission as God’s Church, how to approach leadership and team building, coordination between pastorates, sermon preparation, and growing as ministers. Particular emphasis was given to how to nurture and bring along prospective members, following Christ’s admonition to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). At the Charlotte conference, Evangelist Richard Ames gave an update on the Work and spoke on the fundamentals of prophecy. Other senior ministers conducted sessions on followership, the role of a minister’s wife, working with small congregations, empathy and listening, and giving feedback. A number of Question and Answer sessions on doctrinal and administrative points were also conducted. Many expressed appreciation for the unifying content of the sessions and the opportunity to build camaraderie with friends old and new during breaks and over meals.
Canadian Conference: The First in Five Years
Ministers and their wives from across the country visited the Regional Office in London, Ontario, on August 22–23 for our first in-person ministerial conference in more than five years. We had 40 individuals physically present for two days of meetings, with seven others tuning in via Zoom link along with Mr. Gerald Weston and Dr. Douglas Winnail, who answered questions from the ministry and gave instructive presentations on growing as ministers and growing as a Church. The conference began with a tour of the London office facilities and included several updates on the state of the Work in Canada. For many, this was their first opportunity to participate in such a conference and it provided a wonderful opportunity for fellowship and growth.
Unifying UK Leadership Conference
The UK Church Office hosted a successful Church Leadership Conference on July 19–20, 2022. A total of 55 men and their wives were able to participate in the conference: upwards of 20 in the hall itself and another 35 who attended online, either in English or French. Online technology made possible the remarkable reach of the conference, uniting servants of God throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and various parts of far-away Africa, as well as the United States. African countries connected with the conference included Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Burundi, Kenya, and South Africa.
The conference was organised by the Regional Director for the UK, Europe, and Africa, Mr. Peter Nathan, with guests from Charlotte: Dr. Doug Winnail, Director of Church Administration, and Dr. Scott Winnail, incoming Assistant Regional Director. Many topics about the mission of the Church, the importance of teamwork, and how to deal with this present evil age were discussed. We also heard uplifting updates on preaching the Gospel throughout the region. The participants in Kettering shared the bonding experience of two evening meals spent together, with the prolonged period of COVID-19 restrictions now hopefully behind us. The conference was much appreciated and succeeded on several levels in developing bonds of unity and mutual service. Being able to meet and converse with both Drs. Winnail afforded numerous opportunities for additional in-depth personal discussions concerning the way forward for the Work in the UK.
Australasian Ministerial Conference: Growing and Persevering
The Mario Hotel in Adelaide, Australia, was the venue for the 2022 Australasian Regional Ministerial Conference from June 19–22. There were 29 attending in person, including the ministers, their wives, and three ministerial widows. Several others from across the region who could not be there in person were able to tune in via livestream. Regional Director Robert Tyler and Mr. Martin Montgomery, who serves as the Adelaide Associate Pastor and the Director of Media in the Australian office, gave live lectures for the ministry on pertinent topics. We were also able to hear pre-recorded messages from Mr. Gerald Weston and Dr. Douglas Winnail. Two of the main recurring points throughout the conference were to keep striving for unity and to consider ways that the Work can be built further.
We also heard reports from pastors about their areas of responsibility. Although there have been some challenges faced over the past couple of years by the ministry and members alike due to the global spread of COVID-19 and civil unrest, the reports were positive in that brethren around the world continue to persevere. The Work in Australasia is moving forward, predominantly due to the Regional Office’s efforts using Facebook advertising. This is producing positive fruit in countries that have been difficult to effectively reach in the past, such as India and Fiji. Some of the ministers had not seen each other for several years, so this event was very much needed and appreciated. It was evident that those in the ministry, whether in person or livestreaming, have a passion to grow personally in order to serve the members more effectively in these sobering and challenging times.