The Refined digital hub was created to support and develop congregational life and witness across the all-Ireland denomination during first lockdown in March 2020, when the familiar rhythms of church life had been turned upside down.
Initially under the banner ‘These Three Remain: Stories of Faith, Hope & Love’, the bundle of resources made available at the time sought to draw together practical examples of how congregations were responding to the lockdown and the unprecedented challenges of continuing ministry and mission at the time. Today, the Refined hub on the PCI website continues to provide a range of updated content that is focused on supporting congregations and their members in responding to the impact of the pandemic.
Explaining the background to the podcast series, Rev David Thompson, Secretary for PCI’s Council for Congregational Life and Witness, which has responsibility for resourcing PCI’s 500-plus congregations said, “While the disruption of the pandemic to church life at all levels has seen so much coming apart, it's good to step back and see how God has also been at work bringing new things together.
“The podcast series was born as an agile response to a moment when we could not be together in church and in person, but even as those restrictions have eased the podcast has become an ongoing expression of our togetherness in heart, mind and spirit as the family of Irish Presbyterians,” David Thompson said.
The first episode, which was hosted by PCI’s discipleship development officer, Rick Hill, aired on 1 April 2020. For the first of the weekly podcasts three ministers, two from churches in Belfast and one from County Monaghan, joined him to talk about how their congregations were adapting given that churches were closed and activities have ceased.
Lasting between 30-45 minutes, since then he as hosted the majority of the now fortnightly podcasts, with colleagues Ruth Bromley, PCI’s Children's Development Officer, Graeme Thompson, Youth Development Officer, Neil Harrison, Mission Development Officer and Sarah Harding, editor of the Presbyterian Herald, also hosting a number of episodes.
Together they have been joined by over 120 guests from inside and outside of PCI, in conversations ranging from mental health, parenting in a pandemic, and rebuilding community in congregations, to making the most of small church groups, engaging with the Bible, children’s ministry, climate change and supporting people in a crisis. With over 400 listens per episode, the podcasts to date have attracted nearly 22,000 individual listens since the first one aired in April 2020.
Since then, ministers, church staff and volunteers from congregations across Ireland, global mission workers, the Moderator and Clerk of the General Assembly, to name but a few, have contributed to over 32 hours of discussion. Thanking everyone involved, Rev David Thompson said, “Across the first 50 episodes the podcast has been a place in which a conversation across the whole church has been hosted, with a rich variety of voices from around PCI, and beyond.
“Each podcast has sought to encourage listeners to look to God for grace, joy and hope in this unusual season of life. The conversation about how we develop the podcast medium further is already under way and I have no doubt that it will continue to flourish in the future.”
Episode 50, which is out today, is entitled ‘Renew: Our vision for reaching the lost’. Neil Harrison is in conversation with Donna Jennings from Evangelical Alliance NI and James Cochrane, PCI Global Mission Worker in Porto, Portugal. Together they share their insights into the growing cultural gap between church and society and discuss how this makes it more difficult to reach new people with the gospel.
You can listen to the 50th podcast here. All episodes of the Refined podcast series can be found on here on audioboom.com. This feed also contains audio from various PCI addresses, lectures and events. Listeners can subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, RSS, or other audio streaming services by searching for 'Podcasts from the Presbyterian Church'.
Photos (1) some of the episodes in the Refined podcast series that have aired on audioboom.com since April 2020 showing the contributors in each podcast (2) Episode #50 with left to right Neil Harrison, James Cochrane and Donna Jennings.