Conference days 6 & 7 - including the whole family of God

I have felt that both yesterday and today have been interesting and productive days. I've enjoyed the debate, the getting up to speak in front of people, the speed of the business and the pressure of keeping up with which of the many pieces of paper we're on. For me, now that I've got the hang of it, it works. However I know that a lot of people do and would struggle to engage with the last two days. We are all different and all need to be enabled to contribute, which is why yesterday Sam (ex Youth President) and I brought a notice of motion aiming to create space for the way Conference is done to be reconsidered. You can find the text of the Notice of Motion here : http://www.methodistconference.org.uk/media/198578/noms%20yellow%20tuesday%209%20july.pdf (208, second one down)

(A notice of motion is an idea which is brought by people during Conference and is voted on by Conference. Sometimes they are related to report which are already part of the agenda, sometimes they are a new thing, like ours)

I am really excited that the Notice of Motion was passed and felt a huge sense of achievement. Yes the work hasn't been done yet but I do actually feel like I've made a difference now as this important topic will be seriously thought about. It could be something that makes a significant difference to our church governance.

In society big advances have been made in the field of learning and the way people are naturally best able to understand things. We know that people learn in different ways - for example through listening, through doing, or through discussing. When I have worked in schools recently I have found that there is much more variety in the way things are taught than there was when I was a pupil. The church needs to pay attention to these advances.

For some standing up and speaking in front of 300 people is unimaginable. For some focusing on a debate style meeting from 9.30am to 7pm (with breaks) is impossible. Many lay people work during the week and therefore find it difficult to attend Conference. There are other ways of doing it. 3Generate has drastically changed the way that the voices of children and young people are heard, now including varied, active, creative and ever improving forms of conferring. I really believe we need to take this experimental attitude and give it a go within the whole church. The Methodist Church in Britain needs to seriously consider how effective it is in enabling the ordinary 'person in the pew' - young, old or in between - to engage with the decision making processes of our church, which are meant to be accessible to all. I quote from the Methodist Church website:

'decisions are made as openly as possible, giving opportunities for all to contribute. It is important for all views to be heard and taken seriously, especially where Christians disagree'

We need to make more of an effort to include the whole family of God in our governance structures and processes - at all levels - so we really are creating opportunities for all to contribute. The majority of our church members are switched off to the decision making processes of our church and if we really are who we say we are, we need to try harder to hear those voices.  I am grateful to the members of Conference for supporting this step.

Back to the general update - so yesterday was a good day, and today was also a good day. Lots discussed and excellent contributions from the 3Generate reps, including a successful Notice of Motion from Roxanne which means that the Larger than Circuit discussions will now include consultation with children and young people. Both days included a profile-raising event for our partnership with the Street Child World Cup, along with the Methodist Churches in Nicaragua and Brazil. Yesterday we did a flash mob blowing whistles and saying a prayer and a poem, and today was the Methodist Celebrity vs Methodist Children and Youth football match. I am sad to say that the Celebrities won 10-7, but pleased to say that it was hugely fun and got a good amount of attention for the Street Child World Cup. You can find out more about our work with SCWC here: http://www.childrenandyouth.org.uk/big-sleepover/scwc/ You can also see the blogs of the last two days from the 3Generate reps here http://3generatereps.wordpress.com/ and their video blogs here http://twitter.yfrog.com/315crksbdgrexrhcmorrpmavz?sa=0 and here http://twitter.yfrog.com/17x46ebmdnatvrwtcwcebvsrz?sa=0

Conference days 4 and 5

Yesterday morning we attended the Conference service at Westminster Central Hall.  It started with an interactive clapping thing where different parts of room had to do a different clap. There was also drama and a sermon and singing. During the service the ordinands (people training to be ministers)  were 'received into full Connexion'  which means that they enter into a relationship of service and support with the church. 
 
It was super hot so we went to St James' park and found some shade to eat our lunch in. Pretty soon I headed across the city because I was helping at one of the ordinations. It was a lovely service at Wesley Chapel with about 650 people. One of the OPPs, Sarah, and I distributed communion. Another OPP Matt valiantly tried to direct people from their seats to us in the right order - not much space, wonky pews, music so they couldn't hear his instructions = very confused people! Made me smile :) There were about 8 people being ordained including the first Welsh first language minister! The service was enjoyable but I was feeling much too tired. I hope it was a really meaningful moment for the ministers which they remember forever. I've heard or seen on social media a lot of ministers saying 'this day__ years ago I got ordained' which I've loved - a reminder every year of that special day and the calling from God to be a minister.  
 
Went out to a nice pizza place for dinner and then went to bed without blogging as I didn't have my laptop at the accommodation.
 
Today was a full on day of business. It included a long and well supported report about ministers with ill health. There are some really challenging points in this paper - I think it needs a change of culture in a lot of places, as there is a lot of pressure put on people. I hope the paper is taken seriously and we become better at looking after each other.
 
We also discussed the Faith and Order report (Faith and Order do theological thinking), heard a bible study, heard some great stories from world church friends and also I seconded a Notice of Motion which was about ensuring the work on a resource about the topic of Cohabitation asked for by 3Generate does not get overlooked and dropped unintentionally. You can find it here if you're interested:  http://www.methodistconference.org.uk/london-2013/2013-07-08/1700-pm/notice-of-motion-205 and the debate will be online soon.

Had some really interesting conversations with people today during the breaks. They are never long enough and I'm rushing back to my seat having not got a drink or gone to the toilet because I've got caught up in an interesting discussion!
 
In the evening we had dinner at Central Hall as usual and then got taken on a tour of the impressive building by some of the stewardy/tour guide people. They took us all the way up to the dome - a lot of stairs and up very high. The view was incredible. My phone battery had died from all the tweeting & emailing I'd been doing so I didn't take any pictures to put on here but Abby and Roxanne did. My day was finished off with lots of laughing with friends old and new - one had gone back to their room to find no bedding, another no towels and another had had his toiletries taken out of his toiletries bag! Luckily everything is where it should be in my room and I have now caught up on blogging so off to bed. Tom did a video blog but it hasn't uploaded properly so that should get put on tomorrow. Roxanne's (sideways) video blog today can be found here: http://twitter.yfrog.com/c9qsfzmwrzbfiehpzqkvuxiez

Looking forward to tomorrow as Sam (ex Youth President) & I are bringing what I hope is a 'challenging in a good way' Notice of Motion so we'll see how that goes. I'm really excited about it.

Good night!
 
 

Conference day 3

Today was a fantastic day! Myself and the 3 children and youth reps really enjoyed it. In the morning was the induction of the President and Vice President of Conference. I thank God for Mark and Mike who are now the ex President and Vice President; I have valued their companionship this year. Mark's message that we are lovely and worthy of love has stuck with me, and I appreciated Mike's astute observations, for example when he picked up on the need for churches to look after their lay workers better. I wish Ruth and Daleep all the best in their roles and am excited to see and hear of their adventures.

In the afternoon we did some practical businessy stuff to set us up for the week, including the first discussion of the budget.

At 5pm was the 3Generate Children and Youth Assembly report. I was feeling really quite nervous but trying hard not to be! I presented the main report and got some interesting questions as well as lots of encouragement. Questions included how will things like 3Generate will be staffed within Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network, why hasn't 3Generate brought more challenging resolutions, and why can't the 18-23s bring resolutions through 3Generate. Then Tom presented the second and third resolutions which are about churches supporting young people through exam stress. Quite a few people agreed that young people - in fact people of all ages - face stress and the church can do something about it. The fourth resolution was proposed by Abby and was about churches creating space for children and young people to ask big questions. Again people were supportive and it was highlighted that this issue affects people of all ages. It's exciting that children and young people can be leading the way bringing up these issues.

The positive reactions in person and over social media were very positive - it was overwhelming how many people have been so supportive.  There were many encouraging and moving comments but one in particular brought tears to my eyes: 'think the debate from 3Generate reps has been the best so far and may turn out to be the best in the Conference. ' Wow - I am so proud to have been part of the work with the reps. How exciting to be away from home for a week in London involved in shaping a movement of 8 million members at 15 years of age!

I thought the atmosphere of the debate around the 3Generate report was good in the fact that it was very much about action; not just agreeing to the report and patting the young people on the head but going home and doing something about it. I think the next step is some sort of accountability on these resolutions - wonder how that would happen? It was also good that people were asking challenging questions about the report. It's my prayer that Conference would critique this report in the same way they would any report.

Roxane tweeted through the presentation and I recommend you look at @3genreps on Twitter to see a really good narrative of the debate. The reps did such an amazing job today - we are so blessed to have them as part of our church and our Conference.

Bed time now! You can find the reps blog for the day at www.3generatereps.wordpress.com and the video blog is at http://t.co/s722rzV6VD



Conference day two

A weensy blog tonight as it's late, my eyes are stinging and it's a big day tomorrow (more about that later)

Today the 3 children and youth reps arrived. Abby and Rox, both 16, are from Wales and Tom, 15, is from Leeds. I have worked with this quite a lot this year as they have been involved in the rep training weekend and other bits of pieces such as meetings and consultations around the Connexion.

They got here at lunch time so in the morning I got some last bits and pieces done and popped down to the PCC for as much as I could. Jobs included getting everything ready for the 3Generate stand, printing rotas, presentation and other stuff, and continuing some preliminary discussions about things which will be discussed later in the week.

This week Tom, Abby, Rox and I are joined by Meg (Youth Development Officer) and Sam (ex Youth President).We had lunch then spent about two and a half hours going through the agenda and what we think and want to say. I'd given each of the children and youth reps 2 reports to particularly focus on, although they can say things about other reports if they want to. This approach seemed to work as the agenda is very thick and daunting! During our time this afternoon the reps fed back to the group what their thoughts were on the reports they had been given and we discussed together what points we want to make. It was really helpful having Sam in the room to offer his perspective having been in this position last year. I cannot advocate the idea of 'team' enough!

We headed over the Central Hall and set up the 3Generate stand, which took a surprisingly long time but doesn't look very impressive! I'm going to blow up some balloons tomorrow to jazz it up a bit :)




We planned to do some sightseeing today but we spent a lot of time briefing and then it took a while to set up the stand so the reps valiantly sacrificed the sightseeing. We are presenting the 3Generate report tomorrow so needed to focus on getting prepared. Hopefully we'll have some time on Sunday to do some touristing though.

After dinner (which was very slow coming because we got forgotten!) as the weather is nice we sat outside to look at the presentation for the 3Generate report and work out what the Abby and Tom will say when they present the resolutions that come with it. This took about an hour and what we came up with sounds really powerful I think. The reps have worked so hard today - they are amazing. They are really excited about this week and have come prepared to contribute. Expect great things people!

You can read the blog by Abby and Rox about the day from there point of view here: http://3generatereps.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/youth-reps-at-methodist-conference-day-1-2/

So tomorrow is the big day - for us anyway! We will be presenting the 3Generate report from about 5.15 onwards and you can watch it online at www.methodistconference.org.uk/live

Conference day one



Linda Crossley and Alison Judd updating us on Methodist Women in Britain

So ... here ends the first day of Conference.

Today I was privileged to attend the Pre Conference Consultation, an annual gathering of representatives from partner churches around the world. There were about 30 people from all corners of the earth - a fantastic blend of cultures and world views which led to stimulating and creative discussion. It was, I felt, a refreshing time together. I enjoyed discussing interesting topics these interesting people.

I lost my programme somewhere along the way so now I have to cast my mind back  remember what topics we discussed. As I left my house at 4.50am this morning it feels like the day stretches back a long way!! Fortunately I was tweeting throughout the day and these tweets not only serve the purpose of sharing with the a wider audience what happened, but of reminding me of what happened!

The first session was on the topic of 'Innovation in Evangelism'. This was led by two of my colleagues from the Discipleship and Ministries Cluster, Jo Cox and Jenny Ellis. Jo opened our minds to the changing context in which we find ourselves in the UK and challenged us to think about how we can 'do evangelism' when people are in a completely different place to where we are, and to where we can presume that they are. The post Christendom nature of Europe at the minute must look to some like a paradigm shift. It must be strange when you come from a country which was 'given' Methodism by Great Britain; now you hear stories of the demise of the church and of Christianity in that same place. We can feel like we are becoming ever smaller - like the golden days are past. I was aware that for many of the countries represented their history and current position is very different. I think it's important to cast our eyes upwards and see beyond the boarders of our tiny island. As I was reminded today we are part of a church of 8 million members!

Jenny and Jo demonstrated to us a new resource that has been produced called 'Table Talk'. This consist of cards with interesting and challenging questions around a topic eg 'evil' or 'forgiveness' or 'death' which aim to be a springboard for a conversation. I've seen similar ideas and resources out there but the questions are really good quality so I recommend having a look at it.

Second session was about media - and I tweeted my way quite successfully through that one! I'll just repeat a couple of points that have stuck in my mind
- Media is a magnifier. If you get the right story and the right outlet (and the right timing) it can go huge.
- You can't not communicate. If you don't say anything it can seem like you don't care. You are either communicating intentionally or unintentionally but you are always communicating.
We spent time in groups discussing the worth of communicating, and the challenges of communicating. Consider this; the church of North India works in an area with many languages. It was either 18 or 80 - either way it's a lot. How can you communicate effectively both internally and with the outside world when this is the case?

After lunch we had a group photo and then the third session of the day. This one was on the 'people to people' programmes being developed by the World Church Relations Team. This is something that I have discussed with David Friswell, who leads that team, in the past and I am hopefully that some really good programmes will be created over the coming months and years. In my group there was myself, Linda Crossley from Methodist Women in Britain, Jose from Portugal, Alwan from India and Trish who went on a 'people to people' type programme to India a few years ago. It was fascinating to have such varied perspectives in the group. One question was whether this type of programme should be 2 way to which our group said emphatically 'yes'. We went on to identify that we can help each other in different ways and perhaps at different times in the lives of our churches.

I snuck out after that missing the last session as I wanted to work on some of the things I need to have ready for this week. Feel like I have lots of things to juggle but it will all come together, I am part of a brilliant and supportive team, I feel like the other 3 children and youth reps and I have some good things to say and it is and will continue to be a great, God-filled, hope-filled week.