Creativity, bridge building the highlights of Equipt 09
Organisers say they are pleased with a first-ever joint conference New Zealand churches in the Methodist tradition held to resource leaders to reach their communities with the gospel.
Equipt 09 was a regional conference of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute (WMEI). About 150 people attended the four day event at the end of April, which included workshops and plenary sessions presented by Kiwis and speakers from the WMEI.
The focus of the conference was on outreach in local contexts. In addition to workshops on traditional skills such as preaching, youth ministry and Bible study, there were sessions on more cutting edge forms of outreach such as art, film, working with offenders, and connecting with migrants.
The Equipt 09 conference was sponsored and organised by the Methodist Church of NZ, the Wesleyan Methodist Church of NZ, the Korean Methodist Church of New Zealand, and the Church of the Nazarene in NZ. Chairman of the organising committee, Rev Alan Webster says while each of the churches selected one of the plenary speakers, workshop presenters were selected for their gifts and abilities rather than their affiliation.
A powhiri led by members of Te Taha Maori opened Equipt 09 and it ended with a large Connecting Youth to Christ rally at the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Mangere hosted by a team from Vahefonua Manukau Youth, chaired by Osaisa Kopu, involving all contributing denominations form all over Auckland.
Alan Webster says the feedback he has received on Equipt 09 has largely been positive, though the numbers attending were fewer than anticipated.
A youth rally in Manukau following Equipt 09 attracted 2000 people.
"I was particularly excited by the workshops on creative, cutting edge community outreach. Mark Pierson’s and Peter Majendie’s presentations on using contemporary art in worship were very interesting as was Beth Fussner’s workshop on using video with disadvantaged young people.
"The panel discussion Aso Saleupolu led on second generation immigrants was also interesting and the youth Friday night rally organised by Osaiasi Kopu attracted 2000 young people. WMEI director Winston Worrell spoke there and 80 young people came forward and committed themselves to Christ."
Nevertheless, Alan says he was somewhat disappointed by the turnout at the event. Organisers planned for double the number of participants. However, they were encouraged by the strong Tongan support from Methodists Church of NZ.
"The event was open to the whole Church, and at a time when many of us are sitting in dwindling congregations we cannot just sit idle. This was a chance to meet with people who are interfacing with their communities in exciting ways."
Equipt 09 also built bridges between the different churches in the Methodist tradition, Alan says. This included the Korean Methodist church, which was represented by a small group at Ngaruawahia but they later hosted one of the plenary speakers JC Park at a large gathering in Auckland.
In his report on Equipt 09 conference secretary Rev Andrew Gammon said people reported they were motivated, equipped, inspired and encouraged by the event. Of the 150 who attended about 50 were Methodists and 40 Wesleyan.
Andrew’s report highlighted some of the cultural differences of Kiwi Methodists.
"Several Pakeha commented that the WMEI team looked very elderly and a younger team would lend more an impetus to evangelism. However the Pacifica attendees felt the age of Americans accorded them greater respect. The lack of women among the plenary speakers was pointed out as a glaring omission," he wrote.