Thursday, 9 July 2009

Thursday at Conference

It’s the final day of Conference already. It has certainly gone very quick, with hardly time to catch my breath, and certainly no time for the jogging I’d hoped to fit in. Today was the last breakfast briefing for a while but what was clear was that even though we had got ahead of ourselves yesterday, there was still a lot to fit in to a short space of time, particularly as we wanted to leave time for a Conference service at the end of business.

I took Wesley’s Chair for the final time. I can’t say I was that disappointed about that as it is not the most comfortable chair to sit in, and neither do I like its overbearing size compared with the other functional chairs used by others on the stage. However, I can just imagine the reaction if I was to suggest we get something more suitable to replace it!

We still had a number of notices of motion to deal with including one about racism and membership of the BNP which had been repeatedly amended during the week. It was finally passed with some impassioned speeches. We were also able to briefly discuss the remaining reports on our agenda including the final report from Methodist Publishing House, to which a former employee gave a moving speech.

Unfortunately the recent practice of leaving the resolution to adopt the Connexional Team budget until the end of Conference meant we also had to conclude with a difficult debate about the use of the Training Assessment Fund. The proposal to remove the designation of the fund to allow the remaining money to be used within the general purposes of the Church was opposed by a notice of motion calling for the Fund to be re-designated for the purposes of training and education via the Regional Training Forums. The notice of motion gained the support of Conference who clearly wanted to see the money used solely for training purposes. However as members of the Connexional Team pointed out this decision could mean the funding currently allocated to other areas of priority work may need to be reviewed. These are not easy decisions to make, but leaving them to the end of Conference in this way is not the best way of making them.

David took the Chair for the final and traditional items of business. The calling of the stations is always a moving moment as are many other key moments in the closing acts of Conference.

We concluded with our service, although a little later than planned. We were supposed to be out of the hall by 1.30 so it was always going to be cutting it a bit fine. As with the Sunday worship, this service was put together with the significant help of Micky Youngson and Peter Bates to whom we owe a great debt as both services were good to be involved with. I had the privilege of preaching and David presided. To share holy communion with all those I’d spent the week with at Conference was very special.

And within half an hour of the final “Amen” the stage set was being demolished and Mr Wesley’s chair was being wheeled away, back in to storage for another year.

Normally when I leave Conference that’s it, perhaps with the exception of a brief report to the Circuit meeting or the District Synod, but this time I realised as we left Wolverhampton that I’ve still got 50 weeks to go before I get this Conference out of my system.

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