Assembly Buildings Belfast
The first day of the newly restored in-person Methodist Conference took place in the Presbyterian Assembly Buuildings in Belfast on Thursday 9th June. As is traditional, the first session was ministerial and most of the business was taken up with details of candidates for ordination, probation and commission. However, as was fitting, the session began with the Sacrament of Holy Communion lead by the President, the Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu. It was great to meet up with colleagues, some of whom we hadn’t seen for a couple of years, even if the topic of conversation was sometimes – ‘Oh join the club. I see you’ve got arthritis as well!’
There was also a small-group discusion session when we looked at those questions which all ministers are expected to answer in the affirmative once a year – ‘Do you believe and preach our doctrines, I am not in debt etc.’ It was interesting to hear the Secretary give one of the reasons for the second question. Appparently, some early Methodist preachers had a habit of racking up debts in their current station knowing they would be moved on in a year’s time and, at that stage, ‘forgetting’ to pay their debts. On an allied subject there was a short talk on the need to review the stipends and allowances of Methodist ministers because of the recent large increses in inflation.
The installation of the new President, the Rev David Nixon and the new Lay Leader, Tom Wilson, took place in the evening, and there was the usual line of ex-Presidents and Lay Leaders and the singing of traditional hymns. There were thanks to the previous Lay Leader, Hazel Lone,and the previous President, the Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu. The Rev Nixon spoke movingly in his sermon of the ‘life experience’ he had gained through having to defer his presidency due to his wife Rhoda’s ill-health and ultimate death. A high point of the evening was a performance by the ‘Play it by Ear’ duo, Chris Neilands and Ros Jonas – an exceedingly professional portrayal of the the parable of the Prodigal Son, which was alo the President’s theme.
Although this was an in-person event, it was also available through live-streaming and can be viewed again on the MCI website.