‘Goodness, Gracious’: Report on the Green Pastures annual conference

Three adults on a sunny lawn

When I was asked to be part of the team representing Restore at this year’s Green Pastures annual conference, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve attended Christian conferences before, but never in a professional capacity; my professional conference attendances have been at academic gatherings. The experiences in that arena have been varied, to say the least! My overriding memory of academic conferences is the air of ‘professional competitiveness’ that permeated every conversation. Even over meals people were talking about their latest research project, or publication plans, or grant application. I recall a sense of being scrutinised; almost as though I were participating in an extended job interview, and the feeling of dread when *that* academic known for asking tricky questions walks into the room and sits down in the front row, moments before you begin your presentation!

Suffice it to say, the Green Pastures conference was not like this at all! We arrived at The Hayes conference venue in Derbyshire just before lunch on a sunny Thursday afternoon, to find a social gathering on the lawn, complete with musical entertainment. Lunch was a buffet barbecue and certainly set the standard for the catering to be expected over the coming two days! Conversations were encouraging and uplifting, and everyone was pleased to see one another.

For the uninitiated among you, Green Pastures is a Christian social enterprise providing ethical investment opportunities, which in turn help to provide homes for those in need. They are one of Restore’s partners and currently own three of the properties we manage. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Goodness, Gracious,’ with a focus on God’s goodness – even in trials, challenges and disappointments – and His graciousness in using us to serve Him and make His Name known. Throughout the previous year, Restore can certainly testify to the Lord’s provision and continued faithfulness. It was encouraging to be among other Christians with a heart for social justice and wonderful to hear of so many smaller, newer projects than Restore, who are only just starting out with one or two properties of supported accommodation. We like to think that, as one of Green Pastures more established partner organisations, we can offer encouragement to those at an earlier point of their journey. It certainly blessed us to remember how far we’ve come and reflect on all the Lord has done for us in the past 12-13 years. We had good conversations with other Green Pastures partners from the Yorkshire region, including Lifeline Harrogate and Hope Housing Bridlington, and look forward to working alongside them to tackle homelessness across the Yorkshire region.

The key phrase that stuck in my mind from the conference was from one Green Pastures staff member, who said “we need to remember that we were all homeless before we met Jesus.” This speaks to the very heart of what makes Restore (and Green Pastures) distinct from other work that is ongoing within the homelessness and poverty sector. Without Jesus, and what He has done for us, we are providing homes only for this lifetime. Whilst that is a worthy endeavour, it is not eternal and – without the offer of everlasting life in Jesus – ultimately insignificant.

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