So, I’ve spent today in Cambridge. Meanwhile Methodist Conference is happening in Southport. These might seem like quite separate statements but they’re actually linked. You see, while I have been sat in my study trying to tidy an academic year’s worth of mess I have also been watching and listening to the Conference via the live feed. For those that don’t know, Conference is the ultimate decision-making body of the Methodist Church, it is the ultimate expression of the inter-connectedness of our denomination. At Conference elected representatives, both lay and ordained, from across the width of the Connexion (the term used to refer to full inter-connected body of the Methodist Church) discuss issues, decide policy, worship together, and formally recognise the appointments and stationing of our ordained ministers – including receiving into Full Connexion and putting forward for ordination those who have been training as ordained ministers (in 3 years I will be attending in order that this process, which always happens on Conference Sunday, can happen to me). Today saw the start of the business agenda.
It has been interesting watching. Even better than that, though, it has shown up the wonder of social media, Twitter in particular. Recently I was involved, by email, in a conversation about Twitter, in which some people indicated that they didn’t ‘get’ Twitter. I use Twitter quite a bit, and I can admit that sometimes the stuff I write is stuff no-one in their right mind should be interested in. But today was one of those times when Twitter showed its real value. Using the live-feed page and the #methconf hashtag feed I was able to join in relevant, real-time conversations with folk both at and away from the Conference about matters that are important to Methodists, the wider church, and the world. Because of the way Twitter works that interconnectedness will continue well beyond Conference as those of us who converse follow one another. Today my “Follow” list increased noticeably, and I tried to follow back as much as possible. This is not me massaging my ego (well, not in any major way). Rather, it is an indication of a way in which modern social media can be seen to be a new way of us being connected with one another.
As mentioned in my first paragraph, Conference is a representation of the whole Connexion, the whole interconnected nature of Methodism. (It is this recognition of interconnectedness throughout the Church that makes me a Methodist rather than any other denomination.) And there on Twitter, today, Conference was able to reach out and maintain contact with some of us who weren’t there, out in the wider Connexion. For me, this was a really positive experience. As just mentioned, Connexionalism is the reason I am a convinced Methodist. I don’t have much experience of it on a large scale, other than the discernment and selection process, having grown up with the episcopal nature of the Anglican church. While it wasn’t the same as being there in person, today gave me a really positive experience of being part of the wider body of Methodism, for which I am truly grateful.
So, thanks to @MethodistMedia, @pmphillips, @Stphotina, @revdrange, @bxybaby, @JarelRB, and the many others who allowed such a great experience and conversation to happen, and I look forward to doing it all over again tomorrow!