To conference or not to conference that was the question. Whether ‘twas sensible to suffer the slides and drifts of outrageous beasts from the east and take our cars against a sea of ice and blizzard and by opposing with gritters and tractors with shovels to reach our destination in rural Oxfordshire, to gather round a blazing log fire, perchance to dream of warm food and warm fellowship.
A flurry of snow-calls later a decision was made and the programme re-configured to start at 11.30am on Saturday.
Our theme for the weekend was ‘How Christian Values Shape Society’. Now, though this was a gathering of veterinary surgeons the topics discussed would be relevant to those in all professions and roles. And, though this was a group of Christians discussing ‘Christian Values’ the issues addressed would be relevant to those of all faiths or indeed none.
Our speaker Robin took as his guide the phrase ‘not so with you’ which is taken from Matthew 20:26 where Jesus is responding to the mother of James and John who asked if her sons could be seated at His right and left in heaven. She was ambitious for her children, as is natural for a parent, but Jesus indicated that His Kingdom did not conform to the models she could see around her. He said, “You’ve observed how god-less rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” This is a value that all leaders should seek to adopt. To be fair and supportive in their influence of those over whom they have authority seeking to encourage them to progress in their lives rather than to be self-seeking and self-promoting.
In living that lifestyle, we might need to be brave, to stand out, to be different. But God emboldens us, “Do not fear .. do not be dismayed .. I will strengthen and help you” (Isaiah 41:10). If we can see others as God sees them, as having worth, as being valuable, i.e. loving them, then there will be no fear. “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1 John 4:18)
The world in which we live today, and indeed throughout much of history, has operated, as Robin put it, within a ‘corridor of opinion’ where to be different is dangerous. But there are many examples of where people, not by any means all Christian, have dared to be different and have followed God’s command, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind”. (Romans 12:2) William Wilberforce dared to challenge the norm leading the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. (Persistence is another value we could all pursue!) George and Richard Cadbury questioned the norms and championed workers’ rights, improved their working conditions and provided education and recreation for their families when opening their factory in Bournville, Birmingham. Are those in leadership in our profession today as interested in those who work for them?
So, challenge aplenty for the delegates. Robin said that technology brings about real change in our lives every two years, trends take about five years to make an impact, but values work more slowly (as in Wilberforce’s example) but the difference they make is much more fundamental and leaves a long-lasting reward. The snow was striking, bringing with it major disruption but it lasted only a few days and we drove home on Sunday on clear roads. We are not being asked to emulate that by bringing about dramatic changes in a few days but to choose the values by which we live and being prepared to stand by them over many years thereby enhancing our own lives and those around us with whom we work.
Just what the weekends are made for!! Fun, friendship, learning that we all know God’s voice and snow fights!! It was a time which really made me realise just what a blessing the VCF family is to me!! Ems.
“After an interesting three-hour drive through the snow, the Windmill Farm Conference Centre with its tea, cake and log fire was a welcome sanctuary. There was a cosy, small-group feel to the weekend and the food and teaching were excellent and thought-provoking (respectively!). Every VCF conference should come with a snowball fight in the schedule!” Callum 🙂
The trip to the 2018 Southern VCF conference certainly improved my prayer time with God due to the driving there from Suffolk on Friday! It is an experience never to forget as was the next morning when I saw the beauty of all that snow around us. We were thoroughly spoilt by our wonderful cook for the weekend and enjoyed all the lovely dishes and homemade scones, biscuits and bread. The smaller group meant that I could spend a lot more time with individuals which was a real blessing. I work in an office where there is no interest in God and therefore always enjoy getting together with other Christian Vets when I can. God reinforced several messages to me during the various talks which were very well presented. I am glad I managed to avoid the snow fights though! Please come along next time. God bless Viv
I came along because it’s always a very good time. What I most enjoyed was being challenged by Robin’s talks and having a snow ball fight on Saturday afternoon. It was also great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. God does bless us enormously through each other, through His word, by His Spirit and through the food too!! Alice
Although it wasn’t my first VCF conference, it was the first time I have been able to stay for more than just one day at the Southern Conference. Once again, it was such a privilege to meet up with folk who really ‘get it’. To be able to deepen friendships, share the highs and lows of practice life, encourage each other, be myself, get good teaching – and just relax, and have fun. The snowball fight was a definite bonus!! It felt like we really were family together, and I think it was the first weekend I have properly switched off from work for months – a much needed break. I am already looking forward to 2020…….. “ Kerry
I’ve been to about four previous conferences. What made me come along? Fellowship, catching up with people and wanting to discuss my concerns about the state of the profession’s ethics, which have motivated me to stand for RCVS Council. (Paradoxically, the only person who was really interested wasn’t any of the vets [who generally don’t seem to perceive a serious problem], but the speaker). What did I enjoy the most? Fellowship and catching up. John
This was now my fourth conference. CPD hours always help but mostly I wanted the chance to catch up with my wonderful Christian vet and vet nurse friends. There is a gap filled by my VCF friends that neither my other vet friends nor my church friends fill, which makes meeting up with them extra important. Heather
Yes, this was my first Conference!! I have been to similar meetings in the US with Christian Veterinary Mission, but this was my first VCF event. I joined VCF just a few weeks before the Southern conference and Ali invited me to come along to it. I didn’t expect to be able to organise the time off, but God makes better plans than I do and He keeps tiny car wheels on the road and moving forward even when there are massive snow drifts in your path.
I most enjoyed the sense of family and the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the entire weekend. He was present in each of the sessions, over meals, and in the midst of new friendships forged during heated games of Dobble, Cluedo, and Bananagrams. While we may have been small compared to other conferences, where two or three are gathered, He is there. Morgan
A lovely weekend catching up with friends and making new ones. Rosie
I have been going to VCF conferences since I was a student and don’t think I have missed a year since I have graduated which is quite a few now! I have made the move from north to south. I studied in Edinburgh but now live in Surrey and so have experienced both national, southern and northern conferences. I have also attended three different VCF local groups in different work locations.
Having made many new friends at conferences over the years it is always nice to spend time with people who understand what it is like to be a Christian in the veterinary workplace. It gives me time and space to focus on God and how I can share His love with colleagues and clients in my job. There are always interesting talks, thought provoking discussion, fun games and lots of yummy food!
A lovely walk in the snow and trying to stand on snow drifts whilst being attacked by snowballs made this conference very memorable! Robin Millar’s talks on values were also very challenging. Becky