As I sit here tapping away, I am aware that we are almost at Conference 2020.
It's been a challenging journey. We'd booked the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington for our weekend services and were lining up Wesley Taranaki Street for the Conference itself.
Then Covid-19 struck. Early on both the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Union pulled their national Assemblies. Our Wellington-based Conference Arrangements Committee reconfigured and expanded to include current Presidential leadership, and Council of Conference representation of both Tauiwi and Te Taha Maori. We needed a more representative body to decide the future for 2020.
We started by recognising that whatever we did would be wrong. Perfect 2020 hindsight would almost certainly have shown us a different path. Yet we cautiously moved forward in faith. We consulted with the wider church – stating our preference for a truncated Conference limiting business to essential administrative Conference questions.
We also discerned that limiting our numbers to 50 participants for the business sessions was a wise path forward. This made it clear that this was not our usual Conference while at the same time allowing us to gather representation from across the church to get the job done. The participants were selected on the basis of function for Connexional representation, and by both Te Taha Maori and Tauiwi caucuses of Council of Conference to ensure good representation across the breadth of the church.
Subsequently, with Auckland at level 3, we resolved to limit the weekend services to 100. More than anything this was done to protect our people, recognising that our core constituency tends to be in the older age groups. This is a recent decision. We were of one mind on it.
Because our time frames have shortened as we waited to see what the emerging landscape would look like, we also recognised the logistical difficulties inherent in trying to accommodate a larger number. We were caught between having open slather where everyone can come (a challenge we do not have the resources to meet), and leaving people feeling unhappy that they have been excluded. We have chosen the latter option. We believe this to be the choice of wisdom, and we have consistently sought, and achieved, the kind of consensus that would allow us to say 'It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us'.
We will do our best to make sure that live streaming covers all that we can. Our services will be posted through links on our website and will be available for continued viewing well into the future.
I read an article recently (www.theweek.com/articles/915738/how-pandemics-change-society) asserting that every world-wide epidemic in history had resulted in significant and lasting changes in how people lived. Almost never did life return to business-as-usual. This crisis has thrown up opportunities to engage with one another, and the world, in a new way. Particularly through the use of technology. I, for one, do not want to go back to life as it was before.
This truncated Conference is open only to the small number charged with doing the necessaries on behalf of the whole. Our plea is that you be in prayer for us. As we will be for you.