Over 400 Catholics joined 5,800 delegates from all around the world at the Leadership Conference in London on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th May at the Royal Albert Hall and HTB Brompton Road. The vision for the conference was to equip leaders for the evangelisation of the nations and the transformation of society and speakers included Rick and Kay Warren (founders of Saddleback church in California), Mike Pilavachi (founder of Soul Survivor), and Nicky Gumbel (Vicar of HTB and pioneer of Alpha). Nicky opened the conference by speaking passionately about friendship as the key to unity throughout the Church and as the theme for this year’s conference. ‘The early church was famous for its love… That’s what God desires for us. We are created not only for friendship with God but also with each other.’
Nicky interviewed Brother Luigi Gioia, a Benedictine monk based at Sant’Anselmo in Rome, who also drew on the theme of friendship; ‘friendship offers the possibility to go from fear to trust... What it takes to go forward with unity is friendship.’ During an afternoon seminar Brother Luigi also spoke on authenticity in leadership and spoke candidly about Pope Francis’ example. He suggested that Pope Francis is ‘irresistible’ not because he is a great speaker or a great theologian, but because of his authenticity. Brother Luigi argued that ‘authenticity is the greatest quality of a leader’ as ‘authenticity is true humility’.
Other speakers included Bobbie Cheema and Clare Champam who both hold highly influential senior positions in their fields of law and justice and people management and were interviewed on the main stage. They spoke inspirationally about how their strong faith daily influences the work they have been called to do and Bobbie Cheema described how she begins every day in prayer within The Old Bailey - London’s Central Criminal Court.
On Tuesday morning a special Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington at which Fr Christopher Jamison OSB was the main celebrant. Around a hundred delegates, including twenty priests, attended and bidding prayers were read in 4 languages. Throughout the conference there were wonderful times of praise and worship and all delegates had several opportunities to pray for each other and to spend precious time in God’s presence. The sight of thousands of people from a multitude of nations and denominations praying together was deeply profound and truly reflected the theme of friendship.
Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, a catechist and youth worker who works for the Diocese of Portsmouth, wrote on her blog; 'The Leadership Conference has deeply blessed and encouraged me in my life. It seems to have a quality of anointing and of true ecumenism… This is just scratching the surface. There is SO MUCH we can learn from HTB – their hospitality, their service, the openness and freedom of their worship…'