The theme for Connecting Disciples 2017 is 'Be the change'. In our first session we were challenged to think about what our preferred future would be. I haven't really thought about my future much. Instead I have become so focussed about getting things done without thinking about how or why I am doing them. I think that this conference will be a good chance for me to think about what I what I want the world to be like and how I can be the part of the change.
Monday 6 March 8.30pm
We were split into fourteen groups for a treasure-hunt like, interactive prayer experience. Travelling around the conference centre finding the rooms with the stations in was the first challenge. Luckily I was with the administrators so someone had a map. We were invited to respond in various ways. At one station we were invited to put a sticker with a Bible verse inside our shoe and ask for the courage to go where God sends us. We were also invited to take a piece of torn fabric to remind us of the Roman Soldier St Martin, who shared his cloak with someone who was begging, and to get us to think about what we have to offer. Travelling and sharing around the conference centre is quite easy but I wonder how I will be the change when I go back home.
Tuesday 7 March 4.30pm
At High Leigh conference centre there is fountain that is a statue of a woman holding a funnel with water pouring out of it. I have been thinking about communication and how I can be a channel information as a fountain channels water.
This morning's Bible study was based on the story of a besieged city (2 Kings 7:3-14). One of the characters in was the King's servant who brought the news to the king that the army that was camped outside the city had fled leaving everything behind. They had heard this news from the gatekeepers who in turn had heard it from four men with leprosy who had gone to the camp to find food. The King thought it was a trap but the servant ordered two people to take horses and find out if the report was true. They went and found that it was true so the city was saved. The servant was a bearer of good news they had heard. However, they didn't just pass the news on but did something about it. It made me wonder how I tell others good news and if I am prepared to do something about it.
Later in the morning, I went to a session on using social media as part of church communicating strategy. The session opened my eyes to the many different types of social media there are and how they should be used as channels to reach people who have or might have an interest in what is going on in church. We were warned against over-communicating with people instead channelling most of the regular communications to those with the most interest or influence in the information.
The Justice and Song workshop in the afternoon invited us to think about the how words, when they are sung, connect with feelings and can be used to get across a message that people can understand. Singing together is about communicating as I listen to the sounds I am making and others are making around me.
Today has inspired me to think about the ways I communicate with others, particularly in my work, and how I can be more effective.
Tuesday 9 March 10.15pm
Just finished an evening where we were challenged by the President of the Methodist Conference, Roger Walton, to think about how holiness is a part of who we are and what we do. Through images and stories we were invited to thing about how we cultivated holy habits by reading the Bible, visiting holy places (including places we might not think of as holy), and by the choices we make. We continued the evening by practising the holy habit of worshipping together in the session called 'Beer and Hymns' (although the beer was optional).
Wednesday 8 March 7.15pm
This morning in worship Rachel Lampard, Vice President of the Methodist Conference, got us thinking about how we make decisions. She suggested that we are like an elephant with a rider that lurches in the direction that we feel like going in and justify our decision afterwards but without any real control (like the rider). The elephant can be trained to change the way it feels like going. We can do that by listening to others rather than talking past each other.
In the workshops I went to before and after lunch, there was a chance to thinking more about how I listen to others, particularly in the setting of the Methodist Church. In the first workshop we thought about encouraging everyone to be heard by using approaches that encourage everyone to get involved. In the second workshop we learnt about the structures of Methodism and how to get ours (and others) voices heard through the systems of the Methodist Church. We were given a leaf and invited to think of the Methodist Church as a leaf that is structured, although it may look a bit random. There are many different routes through the leaf but finding your way around can be difficult.
Having heard about Methodist Structures, the Market Place held after lunch was a chance to see them up close alongside other charities and organisations. There were stalls for Bible Month, Action for Children, Safeguarding, Methodist Publishing and the worship magazine Roots. There was a stall full of various pottery crosses. There were even some sneak previews of things the Methodist Church will be launching soon: a new design for the Methodist Church website and an interactive tool from Statistics for Mission that will help churches understand better the needs of their neighbourhoods.