Methodist leaders urge passion and risk at Conference 2008
The theme for the 2008 Conference of Te Haahi Weteriana is ‘Living our faith with passion’.
The incoming presidential team of Rev Jill van de Geer and Ron Gibson say this means passion for what we believe in, passion for sharing what we believe with others and listening to what others wish to share with us, passion for deepening and strengthening our sense of the spiritual, and above all the passion for caring for all people and our planet.
The opening two days of Conference take place at Wesley College, near Pukekohe on the weekend of November 8th and 9th. The business sessions will be held at Ventura Inn in Mangere November 10th-12th.
"We are being called to be risk takers, to face our future with passion – and compassion," Jill and Ron say.
"In our planning we have sought to provide an opportunity for people to experience this passion in differing ways. The interest groups on Sunday afternoon are structured to give an opportunity to explore some new form of spirituality, deepen our understanding of the interconnection of faith in context and culture, provide some tips on how to use technology to develop spirituality, and assist us to be responsible citizen’s in caring for our community, our world and our natural resources."
Among the interest groups on offer are studying the Bible in the NZ context, visual resources for worship, violence within Pacific families, Maori spirituality, Music therapy, and understanding the symbolism in Polynesian dance.
Jill and Ron are both passionate about music and testify to its powerful influence on their own spirituality.
"We want this Conference to be steeped in music and have invited some members of Conference to bring along instruments to accompany the singing from Monday to Wednesday. Some people bring instruments singing have members.
"We have also asked Colin Gibson to write some fun ditties as theme songs for each business committee so that each time a group presents to the Conference their song will be sung. Our hope is that people will return home able to state ‘Methodism was truly born in Song’."
"Each day of the business sessions will begin with morning worship will be led by Colin Gibson and evening worship will be led by Rev Sylvia Tongotongo with students from Wesley College. We see these worship times as very important to our life and have allocated time accordingly."
Jill and Ron say they are aware that Te Haahi is at the crossroads and there are some important issues to be grappled with this Conference. Among them are:
· The Commissioner John Hinchcliff’s report on Trinity College and the structure of the Church. The report has challenged the Church to consider its governance and management structures, and the presidential team expects Conference to recommend that synods give it full consideration during 2009.
· The Stipends Task Group asking us to take a hard look at how we remunerate our ministry.
· The 4+4 presidency paper recommendations. If adopted Methodist presidents and vice presidents would have two year terms and Conference would be held every other year rather than yearly. These proposals have been under discussion for years and the new presidential team believes people are ready for it.
· How we best use our property and share proceeds from sales.
· Local Shared Ministry teams will be another important topic Conference discusses. With a shortage of ordained presbyters, the importance of lay people to the future of the Church is growing. While both the Anglican and Presbyterian Churches have Local Shared Ministry programmes in place, Conference should resolve what shape the Methodist counterpart will take.