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Friends! Do you think you could host the next IRCA Conference?
Being chair of the planning committee for the Brandon Conference of 2007 was one of the great experiences of my life. I urge all IRCA members to think about it. One of the wonderful benefits of meeting in YOUR country is that many people from your country can attend a local conference, where only a few can fly to another.
Here are some suggestions of what you would want to consider.
- Ecumenical Team for planning local arrangements – I found it valuable to reach out across denominations to form a planning group. For example for Brandon there were people with a variety of talents and connections involved. The IRCA chair works closely with this team, when possible, travelling to visit in the early stages of the planning and the head of the planning team forms strong connections with IRCA leadership group (executive), joining meetings regularly as the conference time draws close.
- Sharing the task – the local team takes responsibilities for all things local – the venue, accommodation, transport, field trips, local visits and hosting experiences. IRCA leadership takes responsibility for the conference program, working with the local team to incorporate local activities and experiences. This responsibility includes a formal aspect for us as a global organization, that is, time spent visioning, doing the business of elections and making plans for the future. EVERYONE at the meeting (including on Zoom) is a voting member of IRCA for the occasion. (All of us receiving this newsletter are members of IRCA, that is, members of the IRCA family.)
- Venue – this is a major decision to make very early in your deliberations. Is it a rural setting? Are there good flight connections, especially for overseas travelers? Can the venue provide accommodation as well as conference facilities? Will it be affordable? Sometimes a college is able to be used – during vacation time. Sometimes a reasonably priced hotel. You’ll need to clarify the provision of food, for meals and breaks. Those attending will hopefully be open to differences of diet in different countries, but it is good if variety can be provided. It is important to have the dates more than a year before the time, so that people can make travel plans. The 2023 Conference was held to coordinate with another conference that is held locally every year, which was an interesting dynamic. Capability for Zoom and online connections is vital, as future IRCA conferences will be a mix of face-to-face and distance participants. Environmental, health and economic constraints, as well as visa problems between countries, will limit the ease of travel for many.
- Transportation – this is a vital component of planning. Lincoln, New Zealand, was likely the easiest, with only 30 minutes of good roading to get from the international airport to the venue. Often it is much more. The time waiting and the time of transportation is a valuable time for community building.
- Visas – one of the reasons we need dates established a year and more ahead of the conference is that for many countries visas need to be applied for, and the sooner the process is begun, the better. The IRCA Secretary takes care of the official IRCA correspondence required for the visas, but local involvement is crucial for gaining knowledge of precise visa requirements.
- Finances – This year the Conference planning started with money in the bank account. That had not happened before, and the IRCA Treasurer had an ongoing job to do. The account was transferred to Iowa, and was available to give scholarships to delegates from some parts of the world. One huge difference between 2007 and the more recent conferences was the presence of Eventbrite by which we could pay. In 2007 people arrived with their cheques in hand!
- Field Trips – this is an opportunity for delegates from around the world to see some of the projects and innovations that are happening in your rural area. It is an opportunity for a large group to divide up into smaller interest groups. In Dubuque we were able to do more than one field trip; in Brandon we had three options which took the three groups off in different directions for the whole day.
- Keynote speakers – the IRCA Executive can advise on this.
- Worship – in earlier Conferences, there was a local team that led the worship. In more recent years, worship has been provided by global regions. This works very well as there can be online connections to bring in more worship leaders. An important part of IRCA Conferences is that on Sunday morning conference participants scatter around different churches in the local area, experiencing local worship with different flavours and different traditions. Local congregations are always very excited to offer hospitality to global guests.
- Entertainment – there is always an evening of entertainment. This year we had a ceilidh; it was great fun. Other years, regions have performed their special entertainment, perhaps a dance, a pantomime, a song.
- Conference Scattered – The idea of this is that an important part of the Conference takes part away from the conference venue (for those who are able to take extra time), in which we meet local people, and see local life and worship in local churches. In 2007 we called it “conference scattered” and arranged home stays across the whole of Canada, converging thereafter for “conference gathered” in Brandon. In Altenkirchen, Germany, a group met before the conference and stayed together in Neckarelz, getting a feel for the rural situation in the country and getting to know each other. In Malawi, similarly, a group stayed together in at Luwinga Lodge in Mzuzu and visited rural villages and programs in the area. In New Zealand we had hosts for a weekend, and enjoyed a bus tour in a group. In Dubuque, we took the weekend in the middle of the Conference to go off on home stays. This plan gave all the participants the opportunity for local hosting.
- Youth Conference – a wonderful innovation that took place in Lilongwe, Malawi, was a youth component to the IRCA Conference. Participants were asked to see if they could bring youth, (it happened to be their grandchildren), and these youth were able to participate with Christian youth of Malawi. It was a very precious gift.
So friends, there has been a lot of variety over the years in the specifics of the way the Conferences have been run, but there are constants that hold the Conferences together, and each one gives delegates a taste of the host country. Think about how you could see your country become a host, welcoming rural Christians from around the world. God bless you as you make your application/suggestion to the IRCA Executive through the secretary. Click here for email