Saturday, 14 July 2007

The Carnival, sorry Conference, is over

Well, after a week of early mornings and late nights the Conference is over. In some ways it doesn't seem five minutes since I arrived in Blackpool in the rain a week past on Wednesday and in others it seems a lifetime away. It is always the case that looking back you can see ways that you might have handled something better. It is too late to change those now, but sincere apologies go to anyone who got hurt along the way.

The content of the Conference business can be found through links from the Methodist Church website but what about behind the scenes?

Waiting to appear on Saturday afternoon is very odd for the President and Vice President designate but we hid ourselves away for the first half of the proceedings in the record office where we could watch what was going on via a screen. It broke the tension when one officer of Conference walked sedately from the platform and burst into the records office in search of a statement which needed to be read in the next two minutes, ran back out with it and appeared sedately back on the platform.

On Saturday evening we had a meal with family and friends which had an unauspicious start when we lost the President - finally found safe and well signing copies of his new book. (See for details!) A highlight of the meal for me was having the Vice Presidential cross described by my 17 year old nephew as my new "bling". It was really good to have time to share with people who had travelled to lend their support. (Especially knowing that from then on the days would start with meetings/Radio interviews etc in the early hours and go on late into the night with little time to stop and share).

Another of those fantastic moments arose on Sunday morning when at 8am the room used by the President, Vice President, the Business Committee and occasionally Uncle Tom Cobley and all, was found to be locked with no sign of a key. The conference centre said that 3 keys existed but they thought that the Methodist Church had taken them all. A chair which needed to appear on the platform (no not Wesley's chair, a smaller one hot foot from IKEA) and the President's robes were dutifully locked away. At 10am, with no one admitting to possession of the keys, and the worship due to begin at 10.30, the centre's handy person was sent for to break the door down. Fortunately he was just beaten to it by another of the centre's staff who had found a key. All's well that ends well.

The weekend contained many formalities, the inauguration of the President and myself and our addresses, hearings about aspects of the Team Focus business to be considered later in the week, the reception into full connexion of this year's ordinands and their ordination services around the North West on Sunday evening. At the end of all of that people are exhausted but also uplifted. It was wonderful to take part in the worship and for that to surround all of the formal business, to realise that we are a movement and not just an organisation. To know that we are united in our faith even when we don't agree with each other about every little detail. The Wednesday communion set within the context of the work was also very moving and special and set a worshipful tone for the business of the day as it was led by Barbara Glasson and the special people from "Somewhere else" in Liverpool. I hope there will be opportunities to come back to thinking about that here.

For me then it was a bit of a shock to the system having driven back from Blackpool on Friday to go straight into the House of Commons to attend our departmental summer party. It felt right to be back in the workplace having emphasised that this is where many lay people express their ministry. I spent most of the evening serving drinks so I suppose that could be seen as a servant ministry, but I was very tired when I eventually arrived home.

After a domestic day on Saturday my husband and I drove up to Arnold in Nottingham and Derby District to be the surprise guests at the farewell service for a Superintendent minister and a lay worker on Sunday evening. My first official appointment and it had been a well kept secret! I had been invited because I was the former youth leader of the Superintendent minister. That really makes me feel old - I was a very young youth leader at the time! It was a good service and it felt good to be with local Methodists in their own setting. I was pretty tired and did not feel very inspiring but it was humbling that so many people were appreciative of me just being there in this new connexional role. It emphasised for me the need to think about that during the year and to follow the mantra I have used a number of times recently from the title of a book by evangelist Tony Campolo - "Following Jesus without embarassing God". Let's hope that's how it looks when we get to next summer. I hope we can build up some conversations about that during the year.

Back to work today in earnest, complete with the full regalia and House of Commons chamber duties until late this evening. No one addressing me as Madam Vice President, and going back to trying to sense God's presence in the everyday instead of having the obvious elements of worship to rely on.


DaveW said...

Great first post Ruby.

My thanks for being such a good chair for so much of my first conference experience.

All the very best for your year in office, even if you don't get to ride a donkey all the time.

ACM-BOB said...

Ruby many thanks for your well handled professional approach to the Radio interviews on the Sunday Morning it made my job a lot easier

Bob L