There is no day in the life of the Methodist Church like Conference Sunday, when people travel from all corners of the Connexion to worship together and then disperse for services of ordination.
It is a powerful, poignant and potent day for the church, when we see embodied in those about to be ordained a whole range of emotions.
- for those who have come to support their family member and friend it is a celebration and a major milestone on a long, long road.
- for those who have been ordained at a previous Conference it is a moment rich with emotion and memory.
- for those who are seeing, possibly for the first time, the presbyter or deacon who will join their circuit team, it is a glimpse into the future God will build for and with them.
It is a solemn moment in the proper use of that word - but done with joy and passion and plenty of smiles.
The Methodist people are very good at mixing business and worship and formal motions accompanied by standing votes go with raised hands and clapping.
President Leo Osborn challenged us to keep our eyes on Jesus as the image of the invisible God, the one who holds all things together.
It reminded me of a Martyn Joseph song, paradoxically called Everything in Heaven Comes Apart, but which lists a whole host of things that we won't need beyond this world:
The bottle brush the swing top bin
The lumps that grown beneath our skin
The roulette wheel conspiring talk
The rhythm of the penguins walk
The years of grief the libelous hint
The plasma of the innocent
The untraced lie the verbal dart
Everything in heaven comes apart
Leo asked whether falling apart or holding together described our world but reminded us that the clue to it all was Christ. He called us to place Christ at centre of all things.
If He held all things together it affected:
- our search for God.
- our view of the world.
- our task as a church.
After powerful sung intercessions, using by far the most imaginative use of images at Conference so far, we agreed by standing votes to admit into Full Connexion Presbyters and Deacons. It's the same every year but it is never any less powerful to hear women and men promise to serve the Church of God and commit their lives to the Methodist congregations and their wider communities.
Vice President Ruth Pickles welcomed the ordinands as "a lay person who has received richly" from presbyters and deacons and Leo reminded them they were called to be a human being who enjoyed life as well as being a minister and he assured them, 'The words "through Jesus Christ our Lord" is not just a convenient way to end a prayer but both an aspiration and a promise - his promise to hold onto you for ever.'