The week behind…
Very early last Friday, Andrew and I set off to Birmingham for the Methodist Conference. What a week it has been! For me, it was a week of very little sleep (adrenaline is powerful stuff!), a week of very many people (old friends and new) and a week of discovering a faithful God in stretching situations. Loraine and I launched our theme of “Day by day…” so that seems the appropriate way to try and capture something of the week:
Friday evening: good to be at the MWiB fringe event and see Sandra Goodwin inducted as the new president. A great sermon/double act from Peter and Jill Barber (recent past VP).
Saturday: our turn to be inducted. Nerves galore but wonderful support from family and friends who had travelled to share this day with me (thank you). Proud to wear the Methodist tartan kilt and sash given to me by the Methodist Church in Scotland. A privilege to share thoughts on “Laughter and Lament“.
Sunday: a foretaste of heaven to take part in worship on that scale in the morning then to participate in the diaconal ordination in the afternoon (in Wolverhampton, where I lived for my first 23 years). A high moment for the five new deacons – and for me too, greatly enhanced by the time I had spent with them at Ampleforth.
Monday: starting the day “in Wesley’s chair” with 299 members of the Conference in front of me was a daunting prospect. The other 6 members of Conference, however, were alongside me on the platform and with their prayer and advice – particularly that of Gareth, the Secretary of Conference on my left – I found I rather enjoyed it! (But very glad to relax a little during the sessions chaired by Loraine). The video interview with Gary had a strong message in the afternoon session with its conclusion that we need to be a church of vulnerability and authenticity.
Tuesday: another day of debate and discussions, some in workshops. Smiles all round when Tim, at the tribune had to address me as “Madam Vice-President” and later some tears for me as our brilliant youth representatives brought their concerns about mental health to the Conference. Vulnerability again.
I think it was also Tuesday (but it might not have been) when Loraine and I were photographed by Tim with a chicken to launch the All We Can harvest appeal.
Wednesday: the Conference communion service – planned months ago with the wonderful Paul Wood – felt right to me. I preached on manna in the wilderness and Loraine broke the bread in the centre of the Conference hall, making it feel as though the manna was indeed being given again.
Thursday: I found the first session challenging to chair, with everyone aware of the ticking of the clock, but in many ways it was one of the most exciting sessions of Conference including several notices of motion on mission, spirituality and church growth. Loraine was (thankfully) in the chair for the closing rites after coffee – a part of Conference which I always find moving, especially (right at the end of that session) the singing of “Captain of Israel’s host” as we adjourn, reminding ourselves that the real journey begins as Conference ends… Lunch, farewells, hugs and then the long drive north to Glasgow.
Friday: Wondering when my dreams will cease to consist of resolutions and amendments, proposers and seconders, points of order and points of information… and also realising once again that Conference is not “normal life” as I unpacked, did the laundry, caught up with “The Archers”, hosted a reflective prayer meeting in the afternoon and friends for a meal in the evening and, through all that, reflected with thankfulness on the God who is “pouring his grace on our lives, day by day“.
This is a very personal account of Conference, and hardly scratches the surface of the business and all the issues it brings up and the challenges to our church at this time. The newsletter “The Week Ahead” and the links above will take you deeper should you wish to go – available for 30 days.
Thank you if you have been praying for me this past week – I can’t articulate how much I valued that and the wonderful sense of being held on the prayers of others. Blessings, Jill