I wrote some stuff yesterday which in part celebrated some Methodist people see 42: Methodist Council
Tonight after a very long meeting, followed by some socializing, I have been reflecting on some of the people, particularly Christian leaders, that I have known and been influenced by. I have been incredibly blessed over the years by the Christian leaders I have known.
I remember like it was yesterday my first permanent job, straight from university to work for the United Bible Societies in their London World Service Centre. I think my job title was Computer Officer or something. There were only a few (much less than 10) people in the office and it was led by John Dean who I went on to work with for many years.
My first task was to prepare budget spreadsheets (about 150 sets of forms in Lotus version 1a!) sent in from the four regions for a week long budget meeting which that year was in London. I attended the meeting to provide technical and admin support to my boss Elizabeth Dain. So less than two months into the job, there I was staying in a hotel in London and part of a meeting of the most senior people in the United Bible Societies.
I was stunned by the attitude of Ulrich Fick, General Secretary of the United Bible Societies at the time. There was me probably the youngest, most junior and least experienced person in the entire fellowship of Bible Societies and he took time from an incredibly busy schedule to talk to me and be interested in me, how I was getting on and so on. I will never forget that example of Christian leadership.
I mention that story (and I thought I had written about it before but google tells me I am wrong) because this Methodist Council reminded me of it, both personally but also in what someone else shared with me. That person mentioned how surprised they were that Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church (and Secretary of the Methodist Conference), took time and care to sit with them (as a self described "junior" person) at one of the meals to have a caring chat about how things were for them.
My own experience of senior people within the Methodist Church is much like that initial experience within the United Bible Societies. That has been the case throughout my training as a Local Preacher and then for ordained ministry (my Methodist involvement had been pretty much within the local Church before that). Yes I would qualify that very slightly in that there have been a couple of people who have come over a bit aloof and distant but they have been a totally insignificant minority.
While I recognise that there are probably many people who do not feel this positive about the Methodist people I still feel very grateful for the examples that so many Methodists have given me in humble, grace filled leadership. But please do not be misled into believing that these have been weak leaders unable to direct, guide, challenge or confront as appropriate – but know that their manner of doing so has been and continues to be inspiring.
My experience of Methodists in local Churches has also been good from my home Church supporting me as I explored vocation, through my local preacher training and then placements during my ministerial training and on into my first appointment in the Nene Valley Circuit. Not everyone has been wonderful but the vast, huge majority have been loving, supportive, generous and filled with grace. Oh how I pray that all people could have those kinds of experiences.
So as I sit on the Methodist Council with the potential to drown in paper or be daunted by big decisions my experience of the Methodist people around me here and elsewhere carries me and points me towards the source of that love and grace to Jesus.
Thank-you to all those who have in the past and still today point me to Jesus.