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Postcards from Plymouth: a view from the Methodist conference

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Methodists from across the country met in Plymouth for its annual conference. Here Andy Moffoot shares his experiences


Venture FX, Statistics for Mission, Fruitful Field, Future Mission Together and JACEI.
These are just a selection of the reports in the 900+ page agenda presented to the Annual Methodist Conference, 2012 taking place in Plymouth in July. I attended as a representative from the Southampton District of which the Thames Valley is on the northern boundary.
The annual conference is a time for the national Church, with guests from other denominations and visitors from world Church partners, to come together and share wisdom and insights into how we can move forward. Some parts of the discussion are essential for our legal status. Some reflect our need to live as God’s people in an ever challenging and changing world. Others raise issues of our social engagement or our life of worship both within and outside the walls of our buildings.
Last year’s key report from the General Secretary and former Principle of Cliff College, the Revd Dr Martin Atkins, had challenged the Methodist Church to become a “Discipleship movement shaped for mission”.
This year we heard stories of ways in which congregations across the country were responding to this challenge through imaginative ways of using our buildings, deploying lay and ordained staff and making it our priority to be more outward looking and less inward facing.
Many reports, particularly about Fresh Expressions, encouragingly reflected this theme. Concerns over the budget for such pioneer projects were expressed and proposed cutbacks in this area were overturned.
One, entitled Fruitful Field, proposed a radical restructuring of lay and pre-ordination training within Methodism, its aim being to redistribute training staff and resources more regionally and flexibly to encompass a greater number of people for lay training in discipleship, worship leading and mission alongside maintaining a striving for excellence in the preparation of those called to ordained ministry.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, JACEI is not an alternative spelling of a girl’s name. It stands for the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment, an example of the broad and diverse range of business that Conference engaged with.
The business-like manner in which Conference worked was constantly balanced with reminders of our faith perspective. Each day began and closed with a time of worship and prayer, often led by church leaders from overseas or our ecumenical partners, and at intervals during the day we stood to stretch our limbs and voices in worship and occasionally paused in response to matters raised in some sessions, such as a report on Safeguarding, in quiet reflection or prayer.
Conference was also about celebration. We welcomed the new president, the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, and the vice president, Mike King, a former team leader of the Methodist World Church Office.
Conference also elected those who will take up these offices next year, the Revd Ruth Gee, currently the chair of Darlington District, as president designate and the former director of Christian Aid, Dr Daleep Mukarji OBE, as vice president designate.
There was also the ordination of ministers and deacons. It was a great celebration and most moving as some of the words of the service resonated within me again and enabled me to reflect once more on my own ordination vows taken 13 years ago and hear afresh the church’s affirmation of those called into ministry.
v For more information and copies of all the reports, log on to www.methodistconference.org.uk.
v The Revd Andy Moffoot MA is minister of Tilehurst and Emmanuel Methodist Churches. in West Reading

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