In December, Dignity and Worth held an Advent conference called #waiting4change at Life at the Centre (Central Methodist Mission) in Nottingham.
Want to know what happened on the day? Jason McMahon reflects….
“It was a real privilege to spend the day at the Dignity and Worth Advent conference. It was a chance to meet fellow members from around the Connexion and it was just what I needed to remind me that I am not alone in this journey of waiting – a theme which we explored throughout the day through discussion and scripture. During the day we had an opportunity to learn about our next steps as a group moving forward to the draft statement which will be released at the Methodist Conference this year (2019).
The day started off with a thoughtful opening worship led by Rev Sam McBratney (chair) giving us an opportunity to pray and reflect together on the hope we all share for positive change in the Methodist Church. Next was the keynote address given by President-Designate the Rev Dr Barbara Glasson. I must say this was truly inspirational and she gave myself and my partner real hope for the coming Connexional year.
The main message I will take away from this address was the idea that inclusion isn’t enough on it is own. Barbara went on to talk about how inclusion is too small of an aspiration. Inclusion says “you” are welcome in “our” church. On its own that doesn’t allow us to be one church. But rather we need to aspire to transformation (that’s the godly thing!) I could write all day about how powerful this message was and the theme of transformation. I learnt that inclusion doesn’t shift power at all and we are wrong to think that on its own it is enough. The church needs to “come out” itself and be in the game of transformation for all.
After a short break for coffee we had the chance to attend two sessions. We chose to go to Rev Sam McBratney and Rev Mark Rowland’s ‘Learning to eat an elephant: bringing change in the church.’ During this session we had the chance to think about change and what our own personal experiences of change had been.
It was interesting and important to hear stories from the group and how as a people we all struggle with change in one way or another. We were reminded how you eat an elephant – with one bite at a time! That is what change will be for us in the church, it will be laborious but it is worthwhile! I noted down the principles of change so that we don’t ever take it for granted that it will happen.
1. Not inevitable
2. Better with practice
3. Always unpredictable
4. Hard work!
5. God’s business (for God is change and transformation)
After a thought provoking morning session we then had a wonderful lunch where we all came together from our different groups to talk, share and have fellowship with one another. It was a real fruitful time and I got a lot out of speaking with others who are passionate about change in our church too. It really gave me hope not to give up!
After lunch we decided to attend the session led by Alister McClure and John Eldon on their initiative of Equal Rites – inclusive worship from an LGBT+ perspective. Another inspirational talk which allowed us to experience the worship that they have developed in their circuit. We were reminded of the diversity of God in the Trinity and how this should be our framework for the outworking of God’s love in the world today.
Equal Rites is all about LGBT led ministry but for all people so that it could be an authentic voice. It was great to hear how this new worship was bringing people to Christ and providing a safe space for truly inclusive worship. My key quote from this session was “we are all made in the image of God, who does not make mistakes!” Amen to that!
Finally the day closed with a short communion service led by the Rev Mark Rowland. This was very moving and thought provoking as we shared bread and wine together in a truly inclusive space. As with every Methodist gathering, the singing (full acapella) was heartfelt and truly rousing. The sung liturgy added to making this a truly special moment for me personally. I felt empowered and enlivened with God’s spirit to go forward in faith, hope and love.
I left feeling positive, hopeful and ready for the upcoming decisions and work across the connexion to share stories and discuss the possibility of becoming a truly inclusive church. I am very much looking forward to the next Dignity and Worth conference and getting involved as much as I can!
Thank you to all who were involved in the preparation and delivery on the day!”