People of faith have been given an opportunity to pause and reflect on where the Holy Spirit is leading them in their lives.
The Alive in the Spirit Conference was held virtually over three days last week, with nearly 700 participants from Australia and Oceania and even Western Europe tuning in.
Richard McMahon, Alive in the Spirit Conference Chair, explained how the conference came to be. “Our conference was born out of a space of prayer, of committed people coming together to ask, ‘where is the Spirit leading us’? Who does the Holy Spirit want us to be in this time and this place,” he said.
The opening keynote speaker, Lana Turvey-Collins, facilitator for the upcoming Plenary Council, reflected on the context of living mission.
“This conference is challenging us to take stock of where we are at, to reconnect with one another, to work out how we are alive, and how we continue to be alive in the spirit,” she said.
“What’s special about being alive in the Spirit is that it is such a beautiful and unique life, compared to being alive ‘not’ in the Spirit. And I think it’s the giftedness of being Christian, of having faith, of seeking something bigger than us to move through our lives and find a way forward – it’s the seeking of that that I think is so important to me.
“If we are alive and not in the Spirit, then we are missing something very special.”
Fr Richard Lennan, Professor of Systemic Theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, put the discussion on the Holy Spirit in a theological context.
He explained, “The direction of the Spirit is always to building up and fulfilling the Body of Christ. How the Spirit does that, through whom the Spirit does that, that’s a matter for the Spirit. But, the Spirit is given to all of us for the common good. The differences between us are about joining us together, rather than separating us.
“Life in the Spirit is a constant process. It is not something that you do once and you tick a box and that’s done.
“As a Church, we are a project. It’s not that we come into the world perfect as the Church, it’s not that at some point in our past, we’ve reached perfection. We know that our relationship to God is ongoing, and the Spirit is the impetus for that ‘ongoingness’.”
Leisa Anslinger, Associate Director of Pastoral Vitality for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, spoke about what do we do next and how we share our ‘aliveness’ in the Spirit.
Inspired by the thoughts of British-American author Simon Sinek, Leisa invited participants to reflect on three questions that they should be asking and prepared to answer as disciples and servant leaders – why, how and what.
“Our why is who we are when we’re at our natural best – when we are alive in the Spirit, when we are focused on living as followers of Christ in all aspects of our lives,” Leisa said.
“The more genuinely we live our faith in the world, the more we will be evangelisers, we will be people who lead others to faith and life in Jesus Christ.”
In between the live keynote addresses, participants were encouraged to watch over 30 workshops on a variety of topics, including engaging parishes in supporting refugee families, evangelising through social media and using music as a tool for evangelisation.
Alongside workshops were times of prayer, reflection, and general discussion, providing the chance for people to explore possibilities together, and, as explained by Leisa, “to learn from others’ experiences and stretch and grow as disciples and as pastoral leaders.”
One of the workshop presenters, Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, Head of Formation for Mission in the Diocese of Parramatta, hopes that participants will continue to connect beyond the conference.
“I hope that the experience will encourage them to network and will keep their own spirit alive to animate their own communities,” she said.
Lisa Bright, Alive in the Spirit Conference Convenor, expects that the conference will provide a renewed energy into faith communities, especially after 18 months living with the pandemic.
“There are so many people who are on fire with the Holy Spirit and we hope that the workshops, keynote speakers, prayer experiences and networking opportunities provide helpful information and opportunities for people to continue to share and growth faith to be the communities that Christ calls us to be,” she said.
Registrations are open until 31 August 2021 for those wishing to experience the Alive in the Spirit Conference. Once you have registered, you will have access to the whole site, including the recordings of the keynote presentations, workshops, and prayer spaces until 31 December 2021.
To register as an individual or as a group, visit aliveinthespirit.com.au