First a bit of background information for those who are unfamiliar with Conference. It happens once each year and includes delegates from every district of the Methodist Church both Lay and Ordained. There are also representative from, 3generate, our Youth Council, and many from different parts of the World Church. The general part of Conference lasts six days and covers a wide range of topics which are debated then voted upon and those which are passed become part of our Standing Orders, our Methodist Rule Book.
The whole conference is held in Worship and Prayer. There are some awe inspiring acts of worship throughout. Two which stand out for me were the Sunday Morning worship during which all the Presbyters and Deacons who are to be ordained later in the day are affirmed by the whole church by a standing vote of those present. The second service was the Communion Service held on the Wednesday morning during which everyone shares at the Lords Table. I was fortunate to be given the elements by the president and Vice President which made it extra special for me. During this service we sang the Lords Prayer to our well known tune, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end it was so moving.
The range of topics covered were varied and wide ranging. This year much time was spent thinking about new pathways of learning for the whole church to ensure high quality scholarship for those who lead worship and how to live out our discipleship and mission within the context of our own churches. Another important issue was Safeguarding explaining the reasons for the many changes that are happening at the moment due to the outcomes of the Jimmy Saville affair which highlighted the need for rigor and accountability at all levels. One of the items which impressed me personally was the report from the financial ethics committee on the way that all our financial dealings as a church are completely within our Christian beliefs of Justice and Righteousness. There is much more that I could say, the meeting of old friends and the making of new ones. The sense of belonging to a loving community and acting at all times in love. But I end with the two things I will be taking with me over the coming months and probably years. The first came as we sung the opening hymn which has been sung every time since the first conference, ‘And Are We Yet Alive’, for me the answer is a resounding YES, in the day to day business and care for each other. The second was the theme of the Presidents Address and for the coming year, ‘Glimpses of God, we are all called to look earnestly for God in all that we do and all the people we meet. That is something we can all do whoever we are as our mission for the coming year.