Monday, 15 August 2011


I think we dream most as children. We have our whole lives ahead of us, and we are full of aspiration for it. But I've found, as more of life is revealed to me, I dream less. As I start to have to sort practical things out, as I start worrying about money, and growing up (I've finally realised I need to do that) I dream less.

When I was growing up (physically that is!) I wanted to be a vet. My family knew a couple of vets, and I liked animals. But as I started to think about this career choice I realised that vets couldn't talk to their patients. Unless they were Doctor Dolittle! So my passion for helping transfigured itself into wanting to become a doctor. After all, you would be able to talk, and work out what was wrong in a way other than poking!

This was my dream for some time. In fact all the way through school, and into college. Until that is, I realised how much hard work I would have to put in just to get to med school. Its fair to say Chemistry wasn't my strong point. So when it came to dooms day, and my chemistry result left a lot to be desired, it was back to the drawing board.

Oddly, I wasn't distraught by this. I was happy to dream again. Though I'm not sure I properly dreamed for a while after that. But how do we know when we are dreaming?

 My dream now. To serve God. Wherever that may be. I'm wondering about going abroad. Is that me dreaming, or God dreaming? Only time will tell.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

What if...

The million pound question

Its an odd question too, as it can refer to the past or the future. And I'm starting to ask it a lot of my life. What if I did go to university. What if we hadn't met. Or what if I didn't have very persuasive friends?

What if I do discern my call properly? What if I do move to a foreign country? What if what I think is right really isn't?

Massive questions I will never find an answer too. Unless I actually do some of the future questions. But then I wonder if I should be asking these questions at all. If I stop living my life by my agenda, and hand it over to God.

Answer, probably not. But we are human, and I do struggle with handing things to God sometimes. I think this is because I expect instant results from God. It is OK for me to leave things to the last minute, but I expect God to be much better organised as me, so get frustrated when things don't happen. Though I guess that is my agenda creeping back in.

I find it so easy to get caught up in my life, and my prayer for me and my friends is that we are able to let go. To lift things up to God, that we don't have to worry about. But have the patience that God knows the time to give it back to us.

There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, 8 August 2011

Where should we be headed?

These thoughts come from discussions with a number of people, reflecting on the work of the Council and Conference.

It is not a hidden fact the Methodist Church, world wide (Though Africa and Southern America do buck the trend), isn't doing too well number wise. And when you look at some of the structures and meetings it probably does say something. The Methodist Church was born from the Methodist Movement, and in some people's eyes we are now a 'Methodist Station'.

Sometimes as more conservative Christians we do not get out there enough. Having already given my concerns over people who seem to do this, I shall now contradict myself by saying lets get out there! Let us listen to the spirit, and not be afraid to listen to God, and spend time praying about situations.

Jesus ministered to the people who the society in that day did not want to acknowledge. Do we do this now? Are we comfortable to get into our societies, and in the words of the British General Secretary, do we get our fingernails dirty?

If we are not getting the dirt under our finger nails, then maybe we should be. We should work with the spirit, not against it.

(This might not be factual, and these are my own views. Thanks :)  )

Sunday, 7 August 2011

In summary?

I'm sure this won't be the last blog regarding World Methodist Council and Conference. However, I do have a fews days to reflect on, due to the previous mention of electricity conversion issues. So I shall try and reflect on my whole experience.

It was with some trepidation I came to South Africa. There were events at home which I really wanted to be a part of, and I have missed the fellowship of very good friends back at home. It is very odd wondering through an airport, waiting for a flight, on your own. Of course when we travel, we are never alone, but without human company makes a lot of difference. I find it interesting how themes keep popping up! Though through discussion it is clear God is working.

However, it has been wonderful to be here, to work with other delegates to try and find a new way of working for the Council. I know that the meetings have been very long, and boring and tedious at points (my views entirely) But the fellowship and encouragement and support of the youth and young adults has been incredible. The fellowship of the whole conference has made the whole experience.

I have become much more aware of issues within the global church, and therefore issues we could find in anyone of our congregations. South Africa, and the city of Durban has been a lovely backdrop to the conference and fellowship. I have been glad of the times we have just been able to do our own thing. The little experiences outside of 'formal' sessions have been the real deal for me. Maybe that shouldn't be true, but I think that the whole point of the Council should be to facilitate the workings of the Conference. And the Conference should be the networking of the people called Methodist all around the world. But that is my view!

I would like to highlight two events that have been really wonderful moments. The first of which was the Beach Party on Saturday night. This was like going clubbing, but sand between your feet, with a South African feel and a truly multi cultural dance evening! It was great, to have people of all ages, and every other diversity you could wish for. All dancing together, with no inhibition.

The second was the Street rally that happened on Sunday. This was again, such a great multi cultural diverse crowd, singing and dancing, or just walking through the streets of Durban. Once again there were no inhibitions, we were proud to show our faith. Something we sometimes don't do back home.

Anyway, it is late now so I'll leave it there. More to follow I'm sure, and photos too!

Mission or evangelism?

[EDIT - This blog reflects the first day of the World Methodist Conference, Thursday 4th August. Due to electrical conversion issues I didn't get a chance to finish the blog that night. So if it changes character part way through, that is why, and I apologise]

I may not have been incredibly taken by some of the content of the Council meetings the past few days, but the World Methodist Conference started today and seems to be bringing an improvement. There was not much of note for a large part of today, and I did find my self pondering if I would have any material for a blog today. This may have in part been due to the fact I opted not to go to a specific seminar in the afternoon. I spent my time in fellowship with friends from Ireland, and later on other corners of the globe.

I once again had a wonderful time in fellowship with young people over lunch. I really do feel that God is working through these people and that soon the Methodist Church will have some great leaders, and will then realise the potential it has been sitting on.

However, the session that has given me most of my material for this (still hopeful) blog was an optional session this evening. Last year the Methodist Church in Britain carried out the All Partners Consultation, in which it got together with Methodist Churches from around the world and asked how we can better work together. Around the same time, the United Methodist Church in the USA did a similar consultation. The session was based around conversations on where to go next. The main question I chose to look at during the session was "In what ways can we partner for mission to make a difference in the World?"

The small group I was discussing this with gave me plenty to think about. There was one American guy, who was what I would call a stereotypical American evangelist. And he told us he was passionate about evangelism, to the extent he had given out over 500 copies of the New Testament and was working towards 600. Great, I thought. It's not the way I would do it, but everyone has their own style. But the more I reflected on this, the more I pondered is this enough? Not in numerical value, but is it enough to give out only the new testament? I believe the study of history is really important when you are looking where to go. 
Now I guess I should confess, that I'm not always a fan of these 'out there' evangelists, so I may be presenting a very biased view!

Another question we batted around, and unfortunately had to try and explain to this American gentleman, was what constituted mission, and evangelism. We acknowledged that the two went hand in hand together, but they were very different. The conversation turned to the distribution of water, and if we are doing that, we might as well do it in Jesus Christ's name (new testament stuff again?) I asked the question of why we were giving that cup of water. If we are giving it because the recipients are in need of it, that is mission. And why not say I'm giving you this because I know Jesus' love and compassion. But, if we give that water so we can give it in Jesus' name, that is evangelism.

It was then acknowledged in wider discussion the importance of reaching out to young people. One idea of how to better the work, was to look into virtual communities. To create a new class meeting that connected similar people world over. I have met so many great people, and to have the internet to keep in contact will be so very useful. I do admit that technology and social media is not limited to young people, it is very much part of their lives. The internet can bring us much closer, the world is a lot smaller with it. Is it time we came together as one world wide connexion? Though after the amount of discussion over bylaws and constitutions over the past week, this may not be a good idea.

It would however, be an interesting exercise, which I think might bring about a lot of healing. 

It is also interesting to note the importance of the British Methodist Church still. One response from the All Partners Consultation was that the British Methodist Church needed to refresh it's spirituality, and prayer and that maybe one of the ways we could do this is through fasting. Now there, I think, is a challenge. But this could be a whole other blog.

I would like to finish with something I have heard before, but was mentioned in the small discussion group. "For God so loved the World, He didn't send a committee!" To which I thought, "But we are Methodists!"

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Further reflections - Day 2 and 3 of World Council

Well, what a couple of days! Yesterday (day 2) was a long day, business started at half past 8 in the morning and finished just after half 9 in the evening! We did have a couple of tea breaks, and stop for lunch and dinner too, but very long heavy day discussing the new constitution. After which a number of people felt the need to unwind, so I had some informative discussions in the bar. This hopefully explains why this blog is for yesterday and today, I was far too tired yesterday!

As I said in a previous blog, I do wish this to be personal reflections of my experience, rather than an account of what happened. However, I will try and keep some sort of account for you. As such, much of the Council's time has been taken up by the Constitution changes. I am helpfully told that this new constitution will improve the working of the Council, so it is important work. Unfortunately the handling of it does has not reflected well on the staff of the WMC and has highlighted for me some of the short comings of the Council. It has also demonstrated to me how diverse we are.

The Council meets under the name of Methodism (Or the Wesleyan tradition) but we should all hold similar core beliefs, having come from the same man, or movement. It is abundantly clear to me how different we are, even though we should have very similar beliefs, doctrines and theology. Similarly, the Council and the debates over the constitution have highlighted how different words have different meanings and connotations to different cultures. Taking this into consideration, it is now easier to see how international conflicts can develop out of something seeming so small, or how we get tension between different cultures living in the same areas.

But it is not just words or beliefs that can cause problems. History plays a big part in the feelings of some members of Council. It is interesting to see how people feel about issues that we think have been sorted out. I am sure many people will know of the oppression of Black people throughout the whole world. Perhaps the most well known countries for this were the USA and South Africa. There is still a lot of healing that needs to be done over race as there are still bitter feelings. I believe quite rightly so. I am not quite so sure that some members have expressed this correctly, but that is my own view. I am not sure that we can operate effectively as a Council until we can all appreciate and help with these issues.

I find it interesting being in South Africa, and I have already made comment in an earlier posting about the poverty levels. However, having experienced a bit more, it is clear there are still some sort of class issues. I have not seen one white person in a 'working class' job, I have not seen one person begging, or in some state of poverty. I am sure there probably are, but I would guess they are rare cases. There is still a bad attitude from some Whites. It was interesting to walk along the promenade on Sunday evening, and see a multi cultural city, but with limited interaction between races. It felt relaxed, and it is only upon reflection and speaking with others that I can see still lots of progress to be made.

It is clear from some members of council that this is not something that in limited to South Africa, but something that members from the USA often feel too.

One question I have found myself asking these past few days has been What am I doing here? I am part of an unusual Council where the constitution is proposed to change, but because this has taken large amounts of debate time, there has been less time to hear and engage with the work of God through the WMC. For instance, today should have included reports from all the Standing Committees (basically sub committees who look at the work of the Council in specific areas), but due to the constitution debates, these got shrunk. We did hear from the, but in considerably less time.

It is my view that this wasn't necessarily bad, but we did seem to loose a lot of the God focus we should have had. However, the Youth and Young Adults Committee (looking after those under 35) was a fantastic report. It told the Council what it had done, and included a video from the International Young Leaders Seminar the few days preceding the Council, which looked fantastic! The report also told the Council what the young people wanted, and would, do. (Details to follow)

On the other hand, I was ashamed to be a Methodist Man today. The World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men presented a their report, which focused on a Stop the Hunger campaign. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It was all in the presentation, and the fact the Women's counterpart has been looking at this and more for over 5 years! The President of the WFMUCM is American, and unfortunately presented this in a very American macho way, including reference to flying a fight jet, and World War. Whereas I do agree famine is awful, and should have as many resources thrown at it as if it "were a World War that we have to win". I am uncomfortable with such militant language. The suggestion is however, to fast 1 meal a week, and to use that time to pray to God about those less fortunate, and give the money you would have spent on that meal so that someone else may eat that day. Great idea, poorly presented, did not feel proud of WFMUCM.

But I will come back to the youth. We had a great meeting of all young people affiliated with the Council who are in Durban. There were around 35-40 young adults in the evening session, where we enjoyed a few games to get to know each other, a time of planning the Youth and Young Adults report to the World Conference (which involved singing) and sharing food and conversation together.

I am looking forward very much to the Conference which stars tomorrow, and hearing of God's work both throughout the world, and locally back home. I leave you with the bible passage the  Youth and Young Adults have based their work of the last 5 years around

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

Blessings from Durban xx

Monday, 1 August 2011

Day 1 - World Methodist Council

I'm in a bit of a limbo here, I don't want to use this blog as a purely factual I did this today, and then I did this, and then we did that. I would like to use it to reflect some of my thoughts on the day (or days). Though I also realise that many people reading this (many is used very loosely here!) are reading to learn what the Methodist World Council is, and what we have done (Hi Mum!) So I'll attempt to get the best of both worlds.

I'm also in the situation of being in beautiful sunny South Africa, right by the coast (I'll try and get a picture of the view from my room) but not actually on holiday. I've already said to someone back home when asked why I was on Facebook, that it's because I am not on holiday! It is also because being winter in Africa it gets dark at about 5, and its not a particularly good idea to be wondering around in the dark. And also because I do miss people from home, and Facebook is a good way of catching up with what's going on.

So today has been great. I've met people from quite literally all over the world, and it is great to hear of the work going on in so many different countries. For instance, we accepted into full membership of the World Methodist Council 3 countries, The Gambia, Nepal and Tanzania. It was great to hear of the growth these churches are experiencing. This was reflected in the Chairman's address. Where he (John Barrat) said the membership of the WMC should reflect what is going on in terms of membership around the world. So the South should be much more represented, and there should be better youth representation too.

I do agree with these things, particularly when you hear of the experiences some churches are having. For instance, at the church the Council are meeting in, The Central Durban Mission, 90% of its congregation are young people. Now this may be something to do with its city location. But the minister of this church, in welcoming us today, told us that when young people come to the city (for education or work) they make many homes. And one of those homes is that church. How great! I cannot remember when I had the conversation, but I have had a conversation recently in which we discussed how unwelcoming some of our churches can be.

One of the main topics of debate for the few days the Council meets are the proposed changes to the Council's constitution and byelaws. This will take up quite some time in the agenda, but it is right and proper that this gets time, so the Council can work effectively. It was also useful today to have an orientation session, to explain what Council is, and how it works. And have the rules of debate set out too!

There was a bit of confusion over when people would be registering for the Council and Conference, and as such we did queue for a little bit. But this was an ideal opportunity to meet people. I have spent a lot of time with Jemima, the other British Youth Rep, which has been wonderful as she (along with Christy-Anna, British Youth President) went to the Young Leaders Seminar before coming to the Council meeting, so know a few people already. So along with Jemima I spent today with Pamela from Ireland. I also met Rohan, a pastor with the United Methodist Church Australia, who had lunch with Pamela, Jemima and me. Lunch had some great conversations of getting to know each other, hearing of Jemima's stories from travelling around South Africa before the Council and some other interesting topics which escape me! Tea break also enabled me to talk and meet people from all over, too many places to name! Maybe one blog will just be countries that I've met people from.

Certainly featuring on that list would be the USA. There is a massive American presence. This is from both on the floor of Council, and some of its staff too. A number of the Americans who have spoken, including the General Secretary have had that wonderful American twang. Which has been lovely to listen to.

As ever worship does play a key part in the session. We opened with some lively worship, with songs appropriately reflecting the global nature of the gathering. The bible passage was from Matthew 5, and the key verse that jumped out for me was
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
There was no teaching on this, but I am rather glad of that as it allowed me time to reflect on why that jumped out at me, when I have heard it so many times before. I am still reflecting on that!

The intercessory prayers also allowed me time to remember friends at home, many of whom are taking part in a Scripture Union Mission week, of which I am disappointed to miss. But my prayers are with all my friends, and the work that is happening back at home. This is why I have been on Facebook, to catch up with life slightly as I have found myself missing some of that contact.

So, another day lies ahead. I somehow agreed with Jemima to go swimming in the hotel pool at half 6 tomorrow, so I'll sign off for the night. God bless