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Conference & the church God wants us to Be

I love the month of June for many reasons. Summer sports are on their way. The weather is warming up, the roses are out and the daylight lasts until nearly bedtime. To tell you the truth the

childhood sense of summer holidays drawing near has never really left me.

For many Methodist people, however, the month of June means “Conference”. The Conference is in effect the governing body of the Methodist Church in Britain. It meets once a year for eight days in total. There are 306 members of Conference at the moment, some of them Presbyters, some of them Deacons and some of them lay members. Each District of the Methodist Church throughout Britain is represented, and there are also representatives from other parts of the Methodist Church worldwide. This year the Conference will be meeting in the Hilton Hotel, by the NEC, here in Birmingham, from June 22 nd to 29 th. The first two days are reserved for Presbyters to do their particular business but from the afternoon of Saturday 24 th June the Conference meetings are open, and visitors are welcome to attend.

The Saturday and Sunday of Conference are big days of celebration, so if you wish to go and see what is happening you will need to get tickets which are available from the Methodist Church website. On the Saturday afternoon the new President and Vice-President of the Conference are installed and they give us their keynote addresses, which set the tone both for the rest of the Conference and for the whole of the Church’s incoming year. This year’s incoming President is the Revd Gillian Newton, who serves as Chair of the Sheffield District. The incoming Vice-President is Deacon Kerry Scarlett. Kerry lives within the Birmingham District in Lichfield and works with the Church’s Learning and Development Team.

The highlights on the Sunday of Conference are the Sunday morning worship celebration and then the afternoon services of Ordination, where the women and men who have spent long years in training and probation are ordained as Presbyters or Deacons. Two years ago we had the privilege of hosting an Ordination Service here in Solihull, although Covid restrictions meant that we were more constrained than we wanted to be.

This year the two Ordination services will be held in Coventry, in the Cathedral and in the Methodist Central Hall. Revd Sally Jones, currently stationed in Warwick, is one of those who will be ordained.

And then on Monday morning it’s down to work. The hall is filled with people, each in their designated place. There are books of agendas to be followed, debates to be held, decisions to be made. The dress code may strike you as fairly informal but the work is serious. The Conference isn’t just a debating chamber. It is a gathering where people together seek faithfully and prayerfully to discern the mind of God for the

life of the Church. Anyone is welcome to sit in to these sessions and you won’t need a ticket. The Conference is also live-streamed, so you can follow it at home.

If you come to the Conference you may see some familiar faces as those of us who have volunteered as Stewards will enjoy telling you where to go. But whether you can be with us or not please pray for the Conference and those who lead it, that we may all be alert to God’s Holy Spirit and be the Church that God wants us to be.

Rev Donald Ker