The lovely village of Houghton, sandwiched between Huntingdon and St Ives, and close to Cambridge, made an excellent venue for the Southern Conference of the Veterinary Christian Fellowship. Forty vet students, nurses and postgraduates were comfortably housed in the Houghton Chapel Retreat Centre. Alternate years regional conferences are held to be as close as possible to our university faculties – this one to encourage students from London, Cambridge, Bristol and Nottingham. Unfortunately, our timing coincided with imminent exams for Cambridge students, and we were rather far from Bristol; RVC was well represented, and one student came from the exciting new Nottingham faculty.
The theme for the weekend was ‘witness in the workplace – conscience, honesty and integrity: main sessions were taken by Peter Green, until recently in equine practice, now dividing his time between deer practice, and a Theology course in Cambridge. Peter outlined the history of dualism in the church – division of the secular and spiritual, emphasising from Scripture (1Timothy) that there was to be no division – we were to be as spiritual in our workplace and at leisure as we were in church. This led to a consideration of the place of our conscience – how we use and train it, and the four tools of guidance – The Word, the Holy Spirit, our conscience, and advice from other Christians. Cultivating a good conscience was vital, as at work we rely primarily on our conscience and the Spirit to guide us in issues we face. Issues of honesty and integrity, employees and employers, and perspectives on prosperity were also tackled. Much to digest, discuss, and put into practice!
David Williams, an ophthalmologist, and an ethicist at Cambridge, led a session looking at the inherent value of animals and humans as part of God’s creation, a ‘gradient of worth’, and reflecting that the whole of creation was to be reconciled through the cross. Small groups looked at ethical responses to problems we encounter in practice. Later, a panel including Professor Brian Aldridge from the RVC, and Andy Soldan from VLA Weybridge, answered questions and addressed problems posed by the delegates. David Bee had just returned from a two week trip to Djbouti organised through VCM (USA) – where there are no vets! There is great need for a French speaking vet to spend time there.
Ros Turner of Christian Workplace Forum, now Transform Work UK, spoke of her networking role inspiring Christians in a wide variety of jobs and professions to seek through their faith to transform the workplace. Alison Craven – retired missionary and vet from Nepal, with two friends made sure we were well fed.
Much to provoke and stimulate our thinking – new friends made, and old renewed, these conferences are not to be missed!
and from John Brown...
So, what did I expect when attending a conference on ‘Witness in the Workplace’? An exhortation to pray over morning coffee, an encouragement to wear lapel badges, an entreaty to have the Bible on display in the waiting room? What I certainly did not expect was an exposition on philosophical dualism!
But that is indeed where Peter Green took us in the first session. The division which we create in our lives between what is sacred and what is secular is totally false. From Plato and Aristotle forward there has been a school of thought which says manual and menial tasks are of lesser value than spiritual activities. To be really spiritual and close to God we need to shut ourselves away from the busy-ness of our lives and retreat to a quiet, serene, peaceful environment where we can hear God speaking to us. Can God be as present in the man-made cacophony of the concrete jungles of our modern cities as in the God-made serenity of rolling hillsides and babbling brooks? Of course He can – and He is!
We are called to witness in our workplaces. That is where we spend a large part of our life and that is where we meet the people who need to see Jesus. We need to be Jesus for them.
We are called to worship in our workplaces. Worship is not something we do in church on a Sunday. It is what we do all day, every day. Our lives worship our Lord and Saviour and He wants, and we should want, that worship to be wholesome and acceptable.
We are not called to be any of the big name Christians that we can all recognise – we are called to be ourselves, with our gifts, our skills, our failings and our Saviour.
To be effective 24/7 Christians (in our workplace, in our home, in our leisure, in our church fellowship) we have been given four resources: The Word of God, The advice of others, the Holy Spirit, Our conscience. Take these with us wherever we go. Learn the Word, Lean on other Christians, be Led by the Holy Spirit, Listen to our God-given Conscience. Guided by these we can grow in our faith and develop a wholly worthwhile witness in our workplace.
Thank God for Monday.