or “Why are there so many meetings?”
Historically, the connected Methodist Church throughout the world has been referred to as ‘Connexion’ – a term dating from Wesley’s time. It celebrates and acknowledges the connectedness of all members of the body of Christ, who together make up the worldwide Christian church.
Connexion meets formally as ‘Conference’ every year for a week in the summer. This is also the time when Ministers’ Ordinations take place, as Presbyters and Deacons are ‘received into Full Connexion’. It is here that reports are presented from all the subcommittees that have been meeting during the year, and it is here that all scheduled debates and discussions take place, always in the context of worship.
Conference may sound like the world’s longest and dullest meeting, but it is actually a very exciting place to be, and it is always good to meet up with old friends from previous years. The entire record of Conference is published online (Agendas in advance, streaming while in session, and Minutes afterwards) and all Methodists are encouraged to visit the website to find out more.
How many Representatives to Conference should there be? Who is entitled to vote at Church Council? What are the rules governing gambling on church premises? All these questions, and many more, are answered within the pages of CPD – The Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church. Published annually, and available as a free download from the website.
Connexion is subdivided into Districts. There are 36 Districts in Great Britain. We are in District 18 – Liverpool District. Ministers and Circuit Representatives meet together at Synod, twice annually. This is also the best channel to communicate items from Conference, and also back to Conference, via the District Representatives who attend Conference on our behalf.
Synod is under the authority of the District Chair (ours is Revd Dr Sheryl Anderson) and the Synod Secretary (for Liverpool District this is Mr Stephen Cooper).
It is at District level that candidates for ordained ministry are assessed and guided through their Probation years, with recommendations and reports from each minister’s local Circuit.
The local Circuit comprises all our ministers, circuit staff and local churches. The Sankey Valley Circuit is Circuit Number 18/13 – reflecting its home in District 18 (Liverpool). The Circuit is the last, indivisible unit of the Methodist Church. The Circuit Meeting (three times annually – Sept, Feb, Jun) is the most important meeting for the Circuit as a whole. Between Circuit Meetings, all the smaller meetings take place – The Circuit Leadership Team (CLT) meets every month, and has subgroups that report to it such as Strategy Group, Circuit Invitations Committee and Communications Group.
The other main Circuit meeting is the meeting of Worship Leaders and Local Preachers, a quarterly meeting (Sept, Dec, Mar, Jun), to support, encourage and train all who preach and lead worship in our Circuit churches.
Circuit news and events are shared via the Circuit Newsletter and Circuit App, and of course the Circuit Website.
The Local Church
The local church in Methodism is always seen as a part of the full Circuit rather than existing on its own in isolation. Ministers appointed to serve in the Circuit are given pastoral charge of the individual churches, although sometimes the Superintendent and Strategy/CLT meetings may arrange a ‘cabinet reshuffle’ to use most effectively the available human resources.
The administration and business of each church is handled via Church Council (2-3 times per year) and the Annual Church Meeting. Stewards may also meet together between full Council Meetings to deal with less urgent business. The Pastoral Meeting enables the Minister to keep up to date with news of individual members, and to encourage the pastoral team who visit all members on her/his behalf. Other important meetings at local church level include the meetings of the Finance and Property Committee and the Worship Planning and Review Group.
There are always opportunities for members of local churches to engage with the workings of the Methodist Church. Please speak to one of your church stewards to talk about roles in the local church, as well as opportunities to serve as a Circuit Steward or at District level. Please also take time to explore the Methodist Church website, where you can find out so much more about the united body of Christ of which you are such an important part.