Alison Tomlin: President of the Methodist Conference

In my earlier post Eunice, Methodist Vice President on God's transforming love I got all excited about British Methodisms new Vice President. Now it is time for the President.

image from Alison Tomlin, now our President, is another special person.  For my first four years as a Methodist Minister she was Chair of the Northampton District – my Chair (or as I liked to tease her: the boss).

Last year I reported on the celebrations of the Northampton Conference delegation when Alison was elected to be President Designate in her last conference as our District Chair.

Alison is going to be a very different Methodist President, I think that is going to be a great thing – something that will at times shock the world and challenge us. She will not be an easy or comfortable president and most certainly not a conventional one. As one illustration the Methodist Media team must have done a careful search of all photos in existence to find one of Alison in a dog collar (I don't remember ever seeing her in one myself). 
image from here it is, Alison with Dawn French at the Make Poverty History launch in January 2005.

Another way in which Alison will not be conventional (and one which will be frustrating to traditional journalists) is that her sermons, addresses and speeches are not going to be scripted. She will normally speak without written notes as she did today in her address to the Methodist Conference, oh and she will often use music, images, actions, … instead of words – powerful but not so easy for journalists.

Anyway you can find bits from her address to conference from the news release: If we pay attention to God we won't stay inside the Church – says new Methodist President: The Methodist Church of Great Britain | 26 June 2010.

Also from the Conference official blogger Gareth Hill: Blogging Conference: God on Twitter … and getting out of the box.

Some bits that caught my eye:

To pay attention, said Alison, was not just understanding about God at the centre but recognising that “God is usually at the edge, on the periphery – out there with those who have been discarded and neglected, who are distressed and distraught”. It’s about “paying attention to those with whom we profoundly disagree – even our enemy” she said.
Alison, who spoke without notes, reminded us how easy it is to be so busy in the Church doing good things for God.
“But it’s more than inside the Church,” she said. “If we pay attention to God we won’t stay inside the church. If we pay attention to God we will have to do the things God challenges us to do: to go out among the people that need to hear the message that God loves them; who have no voice; who have had doors shut in their faces; that others reject and despise. Isn’t that an echo of what they did to Jesus?”

“I pray that we will indeed become a Church paying attention to God in such a way that the passion of God for people, for God’s creation, for our world enlivens us, enthrals us and energises us to be all that God created us to be before the world was made,” she said. “I pray that in paying attention to God and each other we may be all that God desires.” 

This is a good message, it is an uncomfortable one for many Christians and Churches. Alison has a wonderful gift of forcing us to pay attention, to look, to listen. She does not leave us there but then challenges us after reflection to also act.

All I can say is Fandabbydozy.

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