Off to Conference…
The annual Methodist Conference is upon us! Presbyters have gathered in Birmingham today for their initial session, to be joined by lay representatives and other members of the Conference for the official opening on Saturday afternoon. I will be setting off tomorrow to make sure I am settled in and sorted out (as far as possible) before I take up my role. People keep asking me how I feel… and some correctly guess that it is a mixture of anticipation, excitement, apprehension and panic! There is poignancy too – I am thrilled that so many of my family and friends are coming along, but of course I would have loved my parents to be there, and Peter, and other friends…
But deep down I know two things very strongly;
- People are praying for me. It’s a remarkable feeling; humbling and strengthening and very difficult to put into words. If you’re one of those who are, many thanks (and please keep it up!)
- Conference is not about me, or any other individual, nor even about the Methodist Church. It is about God. My hope and prayer is that our gathering – with its ceremonial and celebratory centrepieces over the weekend and then four days of business from Monday – will be a time of discernment, proclamation and grace.
I’ve attended most of our annual Conferences for the past 14 years, so should have some idea now of how it works – but taking my turn, along with Loraine, to oversee the business from “Wesley’s chair” is going to feel very different! Last year an attempt was made to gather us all together for a group photo – I don’t think all the 300 or so members made it, but you can see how much we’re all enjoying it!
From Saturday onwards Loraine and I will be contributing to social media through the Presidency blog and Facebook page, so “North of the Border” posts may be less frequent (perhaps Andrew will keep the seat warm!) I will, however, continue to “tweet”as @ejillbaker.
If you are not going to be at Conference but would like a taste of the proceedings, most of the sessions will be live streamed through the Conference website (click on the red “Watch live” button). The induction begins at 2:15pm on Saturday and I expect to give my address at about 5pm (after a welcome tea break!) The opening hymn used is the same as it was in Wesley’s day and always sends a shiver down my spine; “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face? Glory and praise to Jesus give for his redeeming grace!” Amen. Jill