I suppose I was aware of the NJPN – the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales – but perhaps not that NJPN holds an annual conference. This, coupled with the fact that I am not a member of J&P at any level, made it somewhat unlikely that I would have volunteered to attend this year’s conference. And yet, attend it I did, at the suggestion of my wife, who is a member of the Parish J&P Group. As is the nature of these things, the weekend of the conference fell in a busy period for me and so I did not pay much attention to the content of the conference before the event. All I knew was that we would be travelling to Derbyshire. I considered myself as the “driver”, so my preparations were limited to ensuring that we had petrol in the tank, and putting the destination into TomTom.
The Friday traffic on the M25 and M1 made the journey a little tedious, but fortunately TomTom’s patience is greater than mine, and he calmly guided us to the Hayes Conference Centre, in the village of Swanwick. There we were met by a team of enthusiastic greeters who welcomed us and directed us to our room. We found that we were two of some 250 attendees, some staying for the weekend, some for one or two days. The Hayes centre has 265 bedrooms located in the main house, dating from the 1860’s, and a number of modern buildings. The site is impressive, with its extensive grounds, three conference halls, numerous smaller rooms, dining rooms and a large chapel. A bar and efficient wi-fi are the icing on the cake!
So there I was as an outsider. Or so I thought at first, although I soon became aware that the conference is open to anyone who is interested enough to book a place. I also found that some people were there to learn and to be inspired, some to represent a group or organisation, some to meet up with friends and presumably most of them for more than one of these, and other, reasons. Furthermore, when I looked at the agenda, I found that the content of the conference was linked to the Laudato si’ encyclical. Now, I must admit that I have not read it from cover to cover, but thanks to the sessions arranged in the Parish by our own J&P group, I knew at least something about it. I was particularly pleased to see that NJPN was promoting the very serious issues which Laudato si’ so brilliantly addresses – it is all too easy for the message of even such excellent documents to fade from the mind – or at least that is my experience.
Now I felt less of an outsider, and as this extremely well-organised event unfolded I became increasingly pleased that I had made the effort to be the “driver”. The conference consisted of the following elements:
During the weekend, the NJPN formally adopted Oscar Romero as its patron. A triptych incorporating a relic of Romero was on display whilst Mass was celebrated on Saturday afternoon.
Although I made pages of notes whilst the speakers delivered their talks, my summaries could not do justice to the commitment, the spirit or the tone of these most engaging people. Instead, I have reproduced below the official press release for the conference. More importantly, I have arranged to receive recordings of the talks, and obtained permission to make them available through St. Pius InPrint. Each lasts 45-60 minutes, and so some sustained effort is called for to listen to them, but I believe that many people will find it a worthwhile experience, as I did.
These resources from the conference will be published separately in St. Pius InPrint:
The 2018 conference is already planned - why not give it a try? I can assure you that you will not be an "outsider"!
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