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The Gospel in the Parish

Posted 25 Sep 2018

Edward Keene and Simon Skidmore report on this year's JAEC.

This year was my 4th year at JAEC. The first time I attended I was a curate and this year I have just started my 1st incumbency. JAEC has always been a valuable few days of solid Bible teaching, focussing on key issues and drawing out relevant applications for those serving as Evangelical ministers in the Church of England and this year was no exception. As a 1st incumbent I have quickly learnt how lonely ministry can be and how I value JAEC as an opportunity to meet with other like-minded evangelicals, learn together, gather for BCP Morning Prayer, pray for one another, make friendships and grow in fellowship with each other, regardless of what stage of ministry you are in. Every year it has felt like a ‘reunion.’

As a Team-Vicar serving in a non-evangelical parish, the topic for JAEC this year, focusing on the gospel in the Parish, was very relevant. I found great value in what Bishop Nick McKinnel and Johnny Juckes spoke about Pastoring in the Parish and the relationships we have with those we minister, drawing from Acts 20:17-38 and Luke 13. Bishop Nick reminded us that Parish Ministry is humbling, it’s not about self-affirmation like being a manager but living as a servant of Jesus, something I’m wrestling with in my context. Johnny Juckes spoke strongly on how prayer is the heart of pastoral ministry and how are we forward thinking, preparing people, even for their death? They both spoke about the busyness, hard graft and expectation of a minister, we can lose our focus on the gospel, calling people to repentance and faith and while facing hardships and setbacks, something 1st Incumbents, myself included, will be battling with. Johnny Juckes said this which will stay with me “If Jesus was reduced to tears by Jerusalem, what is different when we look to our parishes?” I was also encouraged and challenged by the Seminar Evangelical ministry in a non-evangelical parish led by Paul Darlington who reaffirmed the need for more evangelical ministers to seek non-evangelical parishes and being able to discuss how we can influence and change things in these contexts. I would strongly recommend anyone who has started a 1st Incumbency to see JAEC as part of their annual diet like I have.

Rev Simon Skidmore
Parish Mission Priest of Bilston (Team Vicar) in the Parish of Bilston.

• 6 seminar options, including turnaround ministry in non-evangelical parishes, growing a parish, national church structures, and BAPs;
• 5 seminaries represented (albeit down from seven last year!);
• 4 bookstalls offering a feast of written materials;
• 3 action-packed days;
• 2 CofE bishops;
• 1 shared commitment: gospel growth in and through the Church of England.
It could only be JAEC 2018!

The title of this year’s JAEC was ‘The Gospel in the Parish’ and each plenary speaker had their own variation on this theme. We heard from seven current or former long-term incumbents, as well as many others with valuable parish ministry experience. Both mornings of conference, we began with the robustly reformed words of our permanent official liturgy. Throughout the days, the stimulating talks and seminars were interspersed with heart-warming hymns. Accommodation was to the usual high standard, all delegates having comfortable en suite rooms. Conversation over the well-provided meals was convivial, as delegates from as far afield as Devon, Suffolk, and Manchester discussed their respective environments and challenges.

A highlight of conference was Mel Lacy’s plenary on youth & children’s ministry. With over four fifths of UK Christians coming to faith before the age of 15, this is a vital ministry area for the future of the church and one in which much of the church is really struggling. Also scintillating, but more frivolous, was the famous Quiz, this year’s title being ‘So You Think You Can Anglican?’. Maths, history, and popular culture were all put to the test in five fiercely contested rounds, and this is one of the few occasions when a photographic memory for CofE geography comes in useful.

With ‘junior’ Anglicans including ministry-minded laity as well as ordinands, curates, and those in the first two years of incumbency, there are potentially thousands of people who could attend JAEC. They should. JAEC does not merely replicate theological college for three days over the summer vacation. It is broader in reach and more focussed in purpose. ‘Broader’ because, with the (very reliable) sponsorship of the senior evangelical body, Church Society, JAEC unites evangelicals from many spheres. ‘Focussed’, as it does so with the clear vision of 1945’s Towards the Conversion of England. 

JAEC allows junior churchmen to plan and pray together about our common goal, renewing a fellowship which is sustained through the rest of the year via a busy private online forum. The conference also affords continuity, some delegates returning annually over the course of a decade as they progress through different stages of life and ministry. At only £99 all-in for non-ordained CS members, if by any means you can come to JAEC, why wouldn’t you?

Edward Keene, ordinand at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

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