Sam Parfitt, Pioneer Rural Church Planter, and Local Preacher, is attending Conference this year. It is the first time she has attended, and will be writing a blog for us which will appear here. Details of the programme of events can be found on the Methodist Church website.

Final Update from Conference

Dear Friends,

Apologies for the lack of commentary on Wednesday and Thursday’s Conference, the past
two days have been something of a whirlwind! Gladly, I am now safely back home, writing
this from the comfort of my armchair, accompanied by my ever faithful labrador (who greatly
missed the extra strokes and treats that she usually gets from me!)

Wednesday at Conference was a long day, with a lot of important business on the order
paper. We began with a celebration of Holy Communion, in which the presbyters and
deacons who have died in the past year were remembered, along with 346 accredited local
preachers whose names are recorded in a book of Thanksgiving which is held at Methodist
Church House. Following this, the designation of the President and Vice-President of the
Conference of 2023 was announced, with Rev Gillian Newton as the former and Deacon
Kerry Scarlett as the latter.

Then onto the many resolutions about Oversight and Trusteeship of the Methodist Church (a
grand sounding title, but essentially it is all about how the Methodist Church runs) The much
anticipated hot potato of the day was resolution 44/11 which was a report all about the
proposed reconfiguration of Districts, which suggested that across the Connexion, three or
four Districts should merge to make fewer, but much larger Districts. There were a large
number of speakers in opposition to this (yours truly included!) and Conference voted in a
large majority not to receive the report. This was an excellent example of how the voices of
everyday Methodists from across the Connexion can help shape the direction of travel of our
denomination. I am certain that the issue of restructuring the Districts will need to be looked
at as part of a continuing process, but we have made it quite clear that a more robust
consultation process needs to be undertaken at ‘grass roots’ level.

On Wednesday evening we went for a meal as a District, and it was great to spend some
time together away from the rock face, it was nice to decompress a little!

Thursday saw the last full morning of Conference and was, in effect, a ‘mopping up’ of items
of business that had been put aside. Because we had been very good (and hadn’t debated
too much!) we were able to have a tea break mid morning, after which appreciations were
given and Conference was adjourned until next year.

In brief conclusion, it has been a fantastic experience to be involved in the coming together
of Methodists from across the Connexion to Conference, which has happened in
continuation since 1744. It has been a week of testing, trying and at times, frustration.
However, greater than that has been the sense of great responsibility to the trust that people
at Synod have put in the judgement of the representatives that they have voted to send to
Conference. I have tried to work diligently and with an attentive and open mind, all of which
has been made easier knowing that there were 305 other people alongside me, doing
exactly the same! I have felt such love, fellowship and have laughed and sung so much that,
although tired (and pleased that I’m now on annual leave!) I am already looking forward to
next year!!!

Love and blessings


Tuesday 28th June

Well, here I am on day four of the representative session of Conference, still going
strong! The days are quite long, starting at 9.15am and finishing at 6.15pm and they
do require deep listening and thinking as everything that is discussed at Conference
in some way impacts on our day to day experience of church. One of the things that
I have found sustaining is that we break regularly during the day, not only for coffee
and lunch, but also to sing and to pray, which underpins all of the points we debate.
Today’s items of business included a large piece of work on the office of Local Lay
Pastors, the Methodist Church’s direction in response to the Climate Crisis and work
done on understanding the nature of Membership in the 21st Century.

Despite it being a very full day, I managed to squeeze in a fringe event during
lunchtime, enjoying a presentation by Englsea Brook on the role of Temperance
Frost and Hugh Bourne as part of the Primitive Methodist movement, it was very
engaging, with a re-enactment of what one of those early meeting would have been
like. The stands continue to be a pleasant distraction and, with great effort and
strength, I even managed to avoid the book stall today!!

Tomorrow I plan to speak for the first time on the subject of merging the Districts to
create fewer, larger areas. Hopefully it will go well, the room is very large and full of
people (I have written down what I hope to say, just in case I get stage fright!!)
I’m signing off now so that I can get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s business

Monday 27th June

Dear Friends,

Although it’s day three (already!) of the representative session of Conference, today has been the first day that we’ve really gotten down to business that has involved thumbing through multiple agendas and order papers. We have covered a number of topics including Finance, Candidating, Deliverance Ministry, Pension Schemes and the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment.  It has been a day which has required deep listening and great attention (which has been aided by sweeties, humour and the bon homie of fellow representatives). Particularly moving was the report from Methodist Homes for the Aged, who produced a wonderful video highlighting some of the important work that they have carried out during the pandemic, both in their vital role in enabling people to live well in later life and in speaking out in the media about the challenges faced by the care sector.  There was also a very good presentation from the Diaconal Order, who have adjusted their Rule of Life to better reflect the role and lived experience of the Order in the 21st century.

You’ll be pleased to know that I have earnt another two Methodist Way of Life badges taking my total up to 5! I have also enjoyed talking to people on the conference stands, today in particular the very nice ladies on the Methodist Women in Britain stand and the people on the Methodist Peace Fellowship. In celebration of its 150th birthday,  Methodist Insurance gave everyone a brolly, which came in very handy as it rained a lot this morning! I had a really  nice chat with two ladies who work in Asda (I popped in there this evening to buy a sandwich and the last hole punch in Telford ) about the Methodist Church.

I really must sign off now as it’s nearly 11pm and I must get some sleep in preparation for another full day tomorrow.

Saturday 25th to Sunday 26th June

Dear Friends,
I thought I would take a few minutes in what has been a busy weekend to send you
greetings from Telford! I thought you might like a little overview of what’s been happening at
the Conference over the last two days. On Saturday morning I enjoyed a hearty breakfast
and made the very short walk to the Telford International Centre, which is next door to the
hotel where the East Anglia District is staying (it is also the hotel where the President of
Conference has been staying, so we’ve been on our best behaviour). Firstly, I went to an
orientation session for people who are new to Conference which explained things such as
how the rules of debate worked, the timing of speakers and how to address the Conference.
Then I had a good look around some of the stands, some of which are from various
Methodist groups or groups closely associated with Methodism eg: Methodist Homes for the
Aged, Action for Children, Methodist Heritage. There are also book stalls and stalls selling
lots of Methodist themed goodies!! The Mission and Evangelism team also have a stall (or
should I say terminal) based on a train station, with stops along the way based on the
Methodist Way of Life - there are badges to collect, one for each aspect, with a District
leaderboard - so far I’ve collected three, but I’m sure I can improve on this!

On Saturday afternoon, Conference was opened by the unaccompanied singing of ‘And are
we yet alive?’ It was a very atmospheric moment and I felt completely immersed in the
words. During the afternoon we sang a whopping ten hymns, a great reminder of how we
sing our faith! The big bit of business was the election of Rev Canon Graham Thompson as
the President of Conference and Mr Anthony Boateng as Vice President. As part of the
Induction of these offices, the President of Conference (Rev Graham) was presented with
the Presidential Cross and John Wesley’s Field Bible (which is tiny and the Secretary of
Conference pointed out that we know Wesley used it because he had corrected all of the
spelling mistakes in it!!) The Vice-President (Anthony) was presented with the Vice-
Presidential Cross and a copy of John and Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Songs. In his
Conference address Rev Graham called on us all as the people called Methodists to explore
the way in which we love our neighbours and seek ways in which we can better love those
around us, both close to home and as members of the global village.

On Sunday we gathered to receive into Full Connexion 26 Ordinand Presbyters and 3
Ordinand Deacons. It was a service of celebration, enriched with singing from the Methodist
Choir of Ghana. The Ordinands then went on to local churches to be Ordained. With all of
the excitement of the weekend being quite tiring, I retired to my hotel room, where I was able
to enjoy watching one of the Ordination Services on live stream while resting to make sure
that I am bright eyed and bushy tailed for tomorrow’s Conference Sessions !


Page last updated: 1st July 2022 8:09 PM