Monday, June 28, 2010

And are we yet alive?

Good morning God,
The last four days have been so uplifting – thank you.
It has been good to be with so many friends and colleagues, to share in worship and fellowship, and  in celebration of our various  journeys of faith.
This year,  Wesley’s Conference hymn ‘And are we yet alive’ has been especially meaningful and for the first time (if I am honest) I was able to make the connection between individual journeys of faith and the life of the Church.
A Methodist minister’s seniority in the Church is determined by their ‘years of travel’.  Whilst this originally referred to the number of years that they had been itinerant, literally travelling around the circuits – it could just as easily refer to the journey of faith. There can be no doubt that I have ‘travelled’ this year . As  I read the Psalm on Friday’s service of remembrance,  I reflected on the fact that I have indeed walked, and in many ways am still walking, through the valley of the shadow of death. Whilst I can honestly say I do not fear any evil, because, yes I do know you are with me, nonetheless, the question which I have hardly dared to ask is whether or not I am still alive - to you and to my calling.
 As I look back over this last year’s conversations, I can see how I have fought for this life which defines me, inspires me and uplifts me. I can see how I have tried to trace a rainbow through the rain, and the extent to which your grace has held me in a love which will not let me go.. but I can see also how I have floundered for want of the fellowship and friendship of my peers, of a  travelling companion who understands the nature of the life that you have called me to and who might have asked me, not how my treatment was going, but how my soul fared - ‘ And are you yet alive?’. The journey has been dark sometimes, and has been desperately lonely in places  – even though you have clearly been with me.
Conference, with its traditional opening hymn, is a reminder that even though some journeys must be travelled alone, we all need to periodically gather and take stock, to pause and wonder at the fact that in spite of everything – YES we are still alive. Some Churches may have floundered, some circuits may have wrestled with closures and stationing problems: there is hope, there is joy, there are tears, and there are dangers – as Wesley puts it ‘ Fightings without and fears within’...

Yet out of all the Lord
Hath brought us by His love;
And still He doth His help afford,
And hides our life above.
These first few days of Conference have been powerfully healing and restorative: To be a part of a Church which has the courage to ask the same question and genuinely seek an answer is truly awe inspiring.  In an age of increasing secularity and creeping congregationalism in our Church, it is uplifting to be reminded how much time we commit to taking the time to listen attentively as our president says, to ponder how we, as a part of the body of Christ, are still alive. As the Vice president has pointed out, we grow in grace as we ask where the transforming love is found amongst us, and it is right and proper to reflect on how we engage with our faith. That we do this together at Conference is important. It reminds us that the Church is NOT a collaboration of individuals, but is one body  a connected body. We are in Connexion with one another and the life of one affects the life of us all.
It is, I believe,  when we explore what it is that we have spent our all our energy and resources fighting and  what it is that we are afraid of, that we are most likely to discover what heals and renews our life so that we might answer Yes – Praise God, when asked ‘And are we yet alive to YOU?
So, thank you God for giving Mr Wesley the insight to make of us a movement – a travelling people who know how important it is to take stock along the way.

Just one small aside God – how come this year Portsmouth is not host to the Methodist Conference, but to the Methodist Church in Conference?
Any idea what this little change is supposed to signify?

And are we yet alive,
And see each other?s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give
For His almighty grace!

Preserved by power divine
To full salvation here,
Again in Jesus? praise we join
And in His sight appear.

What troubles have we seen,
What mighty conflicts past,
Fightings without, and fears within,
Since we assembled last!

Yet out of all the Lord
Hath brought us by His love;
And still He doth His help afford,
And hides our life above.

Then let us make our boast
Of His redeeming power,
Which saves us to the uttermost,
Till we can sin no more.

Let us take up the cross
Till we the crown obtain,
And gladly reckon all things loss
So we may Jesus gain.


  1. I'm glad that you are yet alive.
    Thats an interesting change from Methiodist Conference to methodist church in conference isn't it? To me it changes the emphasis from a being a conference of the Methodist People to a conference of the establishment or hiararchy. It may just be me - but it seems indicative of some of the concerns that I hear being vocalised more and more often about how the Methodist leadership currently operates. Seems an unnecessary change otherwise.

  2. Your post touches me on many levels, Angela, especially as I have had a couple of bad nights with my health problems.

    I am a lay person, but being in Conference puts me amongst many people who have gone beyond asking about my health to asking about the story behind my health. I am blessed greatly to be here in Conference today, however ill I feel.

    I feel guilty, too, that I may have missed opportunities to ask you about your needs and how you needed me to pray for you. Ministry is team work - lay and ordained together, though, of course, I recognise and would wish to affirm the collegial nature of the Methodist presbyterate that is seen so clearly in Conference.

    If there is anything I can do, please ask.

    So far as "The Methodist Church in Conference" goes, the only place that I have seen it is at the bottom of some of the projected material. All the printed papers including the Agenda, the letterhead and the web site all hold to the traditional "Methodist Conference".

    David Wood

  3. Thanks Andrew, Thanks David
    I have come to the conclusion that someone, who probably just didn't know any better, made a master template for the power-point slides with the words The Methodist Church in Conference - and nobody thought to change it since.
    Hey ho..