From stranger to friend: First encounters of faith journeys conference speakers

Wherever, and however we meet people, there are small things that make a big difference to how those new to church move from stranger to friend. Colleagues in the National Evangelism and Discipleship team hosted a conference in November 2019 that focused on this very thing.

Some of the keynote speakers and workshops are outlined below – access lots of the content provided at the confrence just here.

Benita Hewitt, CEO 9-dot Research


Benita Hewitt is a market research consultant with 40 years experience in research with a wide range of organisations and companies. She drew on this research together with research around faith journeys to explore what motivates people and what holds them back as they encounter church.  Benita says, “My passion for my faith means I want to know: how Christians think, what matters to them, what motivates them, why do they do (or don’t do) what they do, and so on.”

Benita was a keynote speaker and also led a workshop to help local churches think about doing their own research around what turns 'welcome' into a step on a faith journey.

"In thinking about faith journeys, I have reflected upon all the research I have conducted to date, including all the secular research. I have studied in particular all the relevant Christian based research I’ve been involved with, as well as relevant research conducted by others, including that undertaken by psychologists and sociologists studying religious communities."

Claire Reed: Artist

Claire Reed is a creative artist whose work has featured at Sarum College in an exhibition called “Architectures of belonging”. Using a range of forms and media Claire explored what it means to belong, to be welcomed and to be included. As a keynote speaker she talked about this work and also shared her own experience of becoming part of a local Church of England worshipping community.  She also led a workshop exploring how the creative arts can be used to help congregations think about welcome in new and creative ways.

Claire has worked extensively in the visual arts throughout her career. Her artwork and collaborative art-dance projects are exhibited and performed in the UK and abroad.

Workshops included working with volunteers; welcome and Fresh Expressions; toddler groups; families and special events; wedding couples and faith journeys; as well as research projects, creative arts, bereavement and food.

Hannah Rich: Researcher, Theos

Hannah joined Theos in November 2017 as a researcher exploring the relationship between church growth, social action and discipleship, together with Church Urban Fund.  She has been looking at the place of food, eating and hospitality in church programmes, and shared some of this research, helping us reflect on why food might be a key part of creating cultures of welcome and belonging.

Yvonne Tulloch:   founder and chair of At a Loss

Yvonne has ministered in a range of contexts over 20 years, but since being widowed in 2009 has been about supporting the bereaved and promoting bereavement care.  She is the Bishop of Southwark’s Officer for Clergy Bereavement, and works with churches and other organisations to enhance their bereavement support.  Her workshop explored the faith and belonging questions that emerge with bereavement, and encouraged us to think about how we respond to those we meet at this stage of their faith journey.


Other speakers included the Rt Revd Bev Mason, Bishop of Warrington; the Rt Revd Alison White, Bishop of Hull; Canon Dave Male, Director of Evangelism and Discipleship; Sandra Millar, Head of Life Events; and Nigel Genders, Director or Education