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Presidential Reflections for Sheffield District – Gill Newton

April 2024

On Friday 1st March I was still in London and spent a sunny, but very blustery day in Regents Park, London with the Vice President and members of the Connexional Media team filming the videos which were released on each day of Holy Week – I hope that some of you may have seen them and found them helpful!

The following day was the annual Daffodil Day at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, an event that has been held for many years as a means of encouragement, particularly for women. The event was hosted by Pam Rhodes, who interviewed several people including me and the Youth President Tom Hart, some music was provided by members of the London Community Gospel Choir and the preacher was the Revd Tony Miles, Superintendent Minister at Methodist Central Hall.

On Sunday 3rd March it was my immense privilege to be preaching at Walworth Methodist Church at the invitation of the resident minister, Revd David Markay, who many of you will know used to serve in the Sheffield Circuit. This is one of the largest churches in British Methodism and as a black majority church with many different nationalities represented, it has vibrant worship in which it was a joy to share. The service included Holy Communion and was 2 ½ hours and that wasn't because of the length of the sermon!!

I returned to York overnight but then on Monday morning, Leslie and I set off on the train together to Northampton where we took part in a 24-hour residential gathering of Connexional Leaders at the Kings Park Conference Centre, reflecting on the governance structures that we need for the future to support the mission that we sense the Methodist Church still has.

On the afternoon of Tuesday 5th March, I returned to York, leaving Leslie in Northampton to chair the Chairs' meeting which was to take place over the next 24 hours. I was then able to spend the next few days at home, quietly preparing for the next round of events!

The Darlington District was the venue for my next visit, and I travelled with the Vice President to the district on the evening of Friday 8th March where we were hosted by the District Chair, Revd Richard Andrew and his wife Debbie.

On Saturday 9th, the Vice President and I led a day for members of Circuit and Church Leadership Teams. Over a hundred people gathered at Elm Ridge Methodist Church and engaged in conversation and practical tasks designed to help them think about the treasure they already have in their contexts and the way in which that treasure could be put to good use.

The following day, it was my privilege to preach at the 260th anniversary of Yarm Methodist Church, an octagonal church in the Stockton Methodist Circuit, described by John Wesley in his journal as "by far the most elegant in England!"

After lunch with the District Chair, I preached with a translator, to the thriving and growing Chinese congregation which meets in Elvet Methodist Church in Durham and then returned home to York.

After a quiet day at home on Monday, I travelled to Crewe on Tuesday 12th in time for an evening meal with District Chair, Revd Helen Kirk, with whom I trained almost 30 years ago!

The following day, it was my joy to join with presbyters from across the Chester and Stoke District at Audley Methodist Church in Stoke-on-Trent for their Presbyteral Synod. During our time together I led an interactive study session on Hidden Treasures and preached at the annual Rededication Service.

In the evening I shared a meal with the District Chair, Probationers' Secretary, Under 7s Group Convenor and some of the ministers who are part of the Under 7s Group and explored together some of the challenges and joys being experienced by those in the early years of ministry.

On Thursday 14th, I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum and spend time with the wonderful staff team there. It was great to hear about the developing work, their vision for the future and to explore some of the "treasures" in the museum that tell the story of my Primitive Methodist roots.

Later that day, I visited Swan Bank Methodist Church in Burslem and spent time with ministers, the Revds Kathryn Stephens and Ruth Jeffries hearing about the numerous projects in which the church is involved as well as visiting some of those projects like the Community Grocery.

I returned home later that day and was able to enjoy my own regular supervision session on zoom on Friday, before travelling to Hoylake in the Liverpool District on the afternoon of Saturday 16th.

That evening, I joined District Chair, the Revd Dr. Sheryl Anderson for "An Evening with the President" at St. Luke's Methodist Church, Hoylake, where Sheryl and I were interviewed and invited to choose music that held meaning for us for an audience that had gathered from across the district.

The following morning, it was my pleasure to preach for the inter-generational and growing congregation of St. Luke's before sharing lunch at a local restaurant with the Church Leadership Team and then returning home to York on the train.

On the following Tuesday I engaged in regular monthly meetings with the Communications Team and our Presidential PA but during that week, Leslie's mother was sadly taken ill and died peacefully with Leslie by her side on Thursday 21st.

This meant that my planned visit to the Northampton District on the following weekend was cancelled so that I could spend time with Leslie and the wider family.

During Holy Week, Leslie and I were also able to take time off together for which we were very grateful given the family circumstances.

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

March 2024

Apart from a couple of meetings on zoom with members of the Connexional Team, my first significant commitment in February was a trip to the Shetland District. So, following an overnight stay in a Manchester airport hotel, I left early on Monday 5th February to fly to Sumburgh, Shetland via Aberdeen! Despite some delay with the second flight, I arrived safely on Shetland later that evening and was warmly welcomed by Revd Steve Charman, Chair of District and his wife Jennie, to the manse in Lerwick.

When I got up the next morning there had been a light covering of snow and rain, hail, snow and strong winds were to be the order of the week that followed, so I spent most of my week in warm coat, hat, scarf, gloves and walking boots! The weather didn't stop us getting around though and in addition to visiting churches and projects there was plenty of time to explore many of the wonderful sights of the mainland as well as the islands of Yell and Unst to which we travelled by ferry on the following Saturday.

During the week, I visited the "Food For The Way Project" in Lerwick Methodist Church providing weekly meals for those that need them most, visited a Local Preacher on her croft, led devotions at a Craft Circle, experienced an Up Helly Aa, visited Haroldswick Methodist Church, the most northerly Methodist Church in the British Isles, preached at Lerwick Methodist Church and at a District Service at Scalloway Methodist Church.

But, perhaps the most amazing encounter whilst on Shetland was with a crofter who has links with Ireland Methodist Church. As well as running his croft, he is also a master craftsman in woodwork and runs his own business called Paparwark Furniture, Paparwark meaning "priestly work."

Upon arrival at his workshop, I also noticed the yarn in the corner, and he told me the story of how he had started producing yarn from his own sheep just a couple of years ago. As someone who loves yarn and crochets in my spare time I was interested to know where the yarn was treated and dyed. He told me that it was somewhere in Cornwall and then produced an address on his phone which turned out to be a company in my hometown of Launceston, just around the corner from where my Mother lives! What an amazing connection!

On the morning of Monday 12th, I had time to visit the Community Garden in Lerwick before I flew home, this time via Inverness and Manchester and arrived back in York, late that evening!

The following day I had a couple of online meetings with the Connexional Communications Team and the Methodist Liaison Officer, Jerusalem and then enjoyed some quarter days, which enabled some time with Leslie and Laura as well as reflection and preparation for the days ahead.

On Sunday 18th February, I travelled by train to the Defence Academy in Shrivenham via Oxford, where I was to spend three days at the Tri-Services Chaplains' Conference. This is a gathering of Methodist Chaplains who serve in the Army, Navy and Air Force and is their annual opportunity to really feel connected to the Methodist Church in whose name they serve in very challenging contexts.

During the time there I was privileged to lead two hour-long sessions on the Presidential theme of Hidden Treasures and to preach at the closing communion service. During the rest of the time we were led in sessions by Revd Jonathan Hustler, Rachel Lampard and Phil Maltby with Revd Dr Andrew Wood and we enjoyed a Formal Mess Dinner on the Tuesday evening following Navy protocols!

Back home again, Kerry and I shared in zoom meetings on Thursday 22nd with the past and designate Presidents and Vice Presidents and with the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Conference.

I was glad to then have a more relaxing few days spent with my sister and brother-in-law who travelled up from Verwood in Dorset to spend the weekend with us.

On the afternoon of Monday 26th I was involved in a planning meeting for the Cliff College Festival to which Kerry and I will contribute later in the year and then on the morning of Tuesday 27th, we had our regular monthly meetings with the Communications Team and with our PA, Rachel Tufnell.

Later that Tuesday afternoon I travelled to Durham where I was collected at the station by Revd Dr Liz Kent who drove me to St John's Coillege. There I was privileged to have a meal and share conversation with some of the students and meet Methodists who had recently engaged in the Growing Leaders Course. After that, it was my privilege to preach at the weekly College Communion service. I stayed overnight in Durham and returned home on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday morning I was on a 7.00 a.m. train out of York to London where I was due to spend the next few days engaged in a variety of activities. The first of those was held on Thursday morning at Grange Hall MHA Care Home where I was privileged to represent the Methodist Church at the launch of the Finding Nana book – a book recently commissioned by MHA to help children grow in their understanding of what is happening when a grandparent moves into residential care.

After lunch I returned to the Wesley Hotel in Euston which was to be my base for the next few days and from there engaged in three telephone conversations with Pam Rhodes, the Secretary of Conference and your own Deputy Chair, Julie Coates!

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

February 2024

After spending a lovely quiet Christmas and New Year at home in York with Leslie and Laura, I was also grateful for a relatively slow start to the New Year which provided time to prepare for the busy period that stretches ahead.

In the early days of January, I had my monthly meeting with the Secretary of Conference to discuss any important matters that need to be drawn to my attention and the Vice President and I had our regular meeting with our PA, to discuss the diary for the coming month.

On Tuesday 8th, I had been invited to have a conversation with an interviewer from BBC Media in preparation for a Radio 4 programme entitled Beyond Belief which is an inter-faith/multi-faith discussion. A programme is being planned which will focus on Women in Leadership and so I was pleased to be invited to share my views as part of the research and now wait to hear whether I will be selected to be part of the panel for the programme recording.

Leslie and I travelled to Manchester on the afternoon of Thursday 9th and joined the Vice President at the Clayton Hotel, Manchester Airport where we stayed overnight ahead of our flight to the Isle of Man on Friday morning.

On Friday 10th, we boarded our flight to the Isle of Man at about 12 noon. The plane was only about half full and Leslie and I were invited to sit next to the emergency exits as those seats were unoccupied and needed to be filled! I'm not sure why they chose us, but we like to think it's because we looked like responsible individuals!!

We landed early at Ronaldsway Airport and met up with Anais Pedron, from the Connexional Media Team who had flown in a little earlier. We were then all met by the Revd Dr Janet Corlett, Chair of the Isle of Man District and driven via Castletown to Greens Café at Tynwald Hill where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch together.

After lunch, we travelled to Peel where we shared in a gathering of Renew Slaynt As Shee (Peel) at Peel Methodist Church. Renew provides a safe, welcoming space for all and offers warm hospitality, friendship and activities such as art, handicrafts, jigsaw making and colouring. We were able to share in lovely conversations and in the wonderful time of prayer and worship that happened during the last 10-15 minutes of the time together!

From there we walked to the Thie dy Vea Retreat Centre in Peel which was to be our base for the weekend. We were warmly welcomed by the staff there and shown to our very comfortable and cosy rooms.

As soon as we had seen our rooms, Kerry and I were taken to the staff room on the top floor of the accommodation where we were interviewed for Manx Radio by Judith Ley, a member of the Thie dy Vea staff, who has a Sunday morning programme on the local radio station. Our interview was to be edited and shared at 9.30 a.m. on the Sunday morning and will also be available as a podcast afterwards.

In the evening, we attended a Taize workshop at the retreat house, in which we learned how to sing a few Taize chants in the Manx language. The workshop was followed by a lovely buffet supper and then we shared in an act of worship in which we sang the Taize chants we had learned earlier in the evening!

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, I was collected from the retreat house by the Revd Johanna Smart and her husband Andy and taken to St John's Mill, an old, converted mill now used by a range of community groups on the island, including the Island Spirituality Network, whose monthly session I was to attend.

The session led by Johanna Smart, on the theme of "Moving Through The Bible" – the use of dance in worship, was attended by about 50 people from a wide range of churches across the island and provided a fascinating insight into the use of dance in scripture and in worship through the ages, as well as an opportunity to participate in some movement, dance and guided meditation.

I returned to Thie Dy Vea for lunch and then in the afternoon we travelled to Crosby for the Circuit Covenant Service during which I preached, and Kerry led the rededication of Local Preachers and Worship Leaders. The service was followed by refreshments in the Church Hall, after which we returned to the retreat house.

On Sunday morning, I preached at a Covenant Service at Peel Methodist Church where the congregation was made up of members from four churches in the west of the island. After the service the minister the Revd Johanna Smart and her husband Andy, took me for lunch in Peel and then we enjoyed a cold, but lovely walk around the harbour and the castle before visiting the beautiful bay of Niarbyl, which was used for filming the comedy film "Waking Ned" in the 1990s.

I enjoyed a couple of hours of peace and quiet back at the Retreat House, before being collected by Johanna and joining Leslie and Kerry at Ballabeg for a bi-lingual service during which both Kerry and I delivered a short message on the Hidden Treasures theme which was translated into Manx. The worship also included prayers, hymns, and Taize chants in both English and Manx and we were also treated to some songs in the Manx language, some Manx tunes and a Manx poem!

On Monday 15th, we were collected from the Retreat House with all our luggage at 9.00 a.m. and then had a full morning of sight-seeing which included visiting Bride Parish Church to view some very ancient celtic cross remains which are sited in the church as well as the grave of Norman Wisdom in the churchyard!

We drove to Ramsey where we stopped for coffee and then drove on to Maughold, where we visited the church and within its grounds the ancient keeill (ruins of a small chapel built between 6th and 12th centuries) and the well. The church and the graveyard within which the keill is situated are on the grounds of a former monastery and there is also a covered structure within the graveyard housing numerous Celtic crosses found on the site.

After that, we shared lunch together at the Kirby Garden Centre in Douglas, before making our way to the airport for our afternoon flights. Upon arrival, we discovered that Leslie's flight back to Manchester had been delayed and was subsequently cancelled and the flight for me and Kerry back to London was also delayed!

Kerry and I eventually flew out an hour behind schedule and Leslie flew about three hours later than scheduled to Liverpool and was then taken by taxi to Manchester airport, before he could get the train home to York, so it became a very long day!!

Having spent the night at The Wesley Hotel in Euston, Kerry and I spent Tuesday morning in the company of the staff at the Central Finance Board on Bonhill Street. We watched a presentation about the work of the Central Finance Board and the Epworth Investment Management given by David Palmer and Andrew Harper. We then had an opportunity to meet all the staff who shared with us something about their roles and engaged in a lively question and answer session with us before we were taken by David and Andrew to a local Italian restaurant for lunch over which we continued to discuss the joys and challenges of their roles and work. We were greatly impressed with the culture of the office environment and the obvious pride that the staff take in their work as well as the joy the draw from it.

After a little coffee shop break along Victoria Street, near Westminster, we then joined the staff team at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, for a short walk to the Houses of Parliament where we were to participate in the annual Parliamentary Covenant Service, held in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster.

It was a privilege, together with the Vice President, to lead the Covenant prayers in a service led by the Revd Tony Miles, Superintendent Minister at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster and at which the Revd Dr Leslie Griffiths, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, presided at communion. We were sorry that none of the Members of Parliament who were due to attend, and in some cases take part, were unable to be there because of the vote on the Rwanda bill that was taking place at the same time, but we were pleased to be able to pray for them as they engaged in that important piece of decision making.

Following the service, we joined with staff from Methodist Central Hall and the London District for a meal and again, were disappointed that Members of Parliament were unable to join us as had been originally planned.

On Wednesday morning, Kerry and I held a drop-in session at Church House for members of the Connexional Team and were pleased that a good number of team members joined us for coffee and pastries, giving us an opportunity to put faces to names and offer thanks and encouragement to members of the team who work hard to provide support to local churches, circuits and districts.

It was good then to have a few days at home which included zoom meetings with the Head of Ministries and Learning, the Communications Team and my own supervisor.

On Sunday 21st I travelled to London to attend the Induction of the National Commissioners of the Salvation Army, Paul and Jenine Main at Regent Hall, on Oxford Street. It was a joyous occasion, and it was good to represent the Methodist Church, given that the founders of the Salvation Army, William and Catherine Booth had their roots within the Methodist Church.

On Tuesday 23rd, I was back in London again, this time for the annual visit of the Presidency to Lambeth Palace to meet with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Kerry and I were accompanied by the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Conference and the Archbishops also had three other officers of the Church of England with them.

We engaged in conversation for an hour about such topics as the Anglican Methodist Covenant, Living With Love And Faith, Justice Seeking and Community Engagement, the General Election and the Permanent Diaconate! Sadly, we didn't see Lambeth Palace in all its glory as there are extensive building works going on at present and the archbishop's study had been moved to a more functional space!

On Thursday 25th January I travelled to Birmingham late afternoon to stay overnight at The Queen's Foundation ahead of a day spent with staff and students on Friday 26th January. The Vice President and I led sessions in which we shared something of the Presidential theme and where we had discovered Hidden Treasures this year so far and engaged in a conversational session. The Vice President led lunch time worship in the college chapel and at the end of the day I presided at a service of Holy Communion at which the Vice President preached.

The month ended with me attending the Methodist Council which was held by zoom on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th January.

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

January 2024

The month of December began with a visit to the Birmingham and Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury districts shared with the Vice President. Arriving at the Chair's manse in Wolverhampton at midday on Friday 1st December, we were treated to an hour of glassmaking, which is the Chair, Rachel Parkinson's creative hobby, before we shared lunch with her and Revd Novette Headley, Chair of the Birmingham district.

After lunch we travelled to the Black Country Living Museum where we met with several wonderful Methodist volunteers from the local Circuits who share stories of the Providence Chapel and the Gospel Car and who also facilitate lessons within the Baby Clinic, set up as it would have been in 1961. They have the opportunity to speak with thousands of visitors to the Museum each year, about the contribution that the Methodist communities made to the local area in the 19th and 20th centuries.

We returned to the manse for more glassmaking before heading to Kingswinsford Methodist Church in Dudley. There we joined the worship group "Into The Light" for their regular rehearsal for worship and enjoyed sharing in the singing as well as the conversation that followed before enjoying a wonderful meal and then travelling back to Wolverhampton in the icy conditions!

On Saturday 2nd December, we travelled to the Whixall Marina in the Shropshire and Marches Circuit where we saw the Methodist Mobile Outreach (MeMO) trailer in action. A good number of people from the circuit had gathered, together with some of those from the community who live on the boats within the marina to sing carols and make Christingles. It was good to talk with Deacon Carys Woodley, Revd Julia Skitt and her husband Andy Skitt who facilitate the travels of the MeMO trailer and to hear about the plans they have for this exciting intiative.

We enjoyed lunch in the Marina Café where we also had opportunity to speak to representatives of the Borderlands Chaplaincy and Butty Van initiatives who are doing incredible and necessary work in supporting those involved in the farming industry.

From there we went to Welsh End where the congregation had discovered a "hidden treasure" of a piece of land adjoining the church which they did not know they owned. It is now being transformed from an overgrown plot into an attractive site which will form the base for Forest Church which the Circuit has been holding at a range of sites until now.

In the evening we went to Walsall Central Hall where the Circuit was hosting a production of Journey Of The Magi by the Springs Dance company. This event was being provided free by the district for local families and it was great to see a good audience of mixed ages taking the opportunity to attend.

On Sunday morning, I rose early for an interview on Radio York at 7.15 a.m. about the Methodist Church's encouragement to congregations to leave the second Advent Candle unlit as an act of solidarity and remembrance for all those whose lives have been impacted by the atrocities in Israel/Palestine.

Later in the morning we travelled to Berkswich, in Staffordshire where there was much more snow than in Wolverhampton. Rachel Parkinson and I were pleased to attend the Early Communion Service which was followed by a hearty cooked breakfast in the church hall. After that, it was my joy to preach at the morning service which was ably led by Revd David Bintliff and in which other congregational members participated. It was believed to be the first time that a President of the Conference had visited the Circuit!

We returned to the manse in Wolverhampton for lunch and for much of the afternoon before travelling to Kings Park, Northampton where the District Chairs were gathering for Stationing Matching Group 2 over the coming few days. A train strike meant that there was no way for me to return home on Sunday, so I had the opportunity to meet up with Leslie in Northampton for the evening and then travelled home by train from Northampton to York on Monday morning!

On Tuesday 5th, it was my joy to be invited to join with the Sheffield District staff team for the annual Christmas lunch in Sheffield City Centre. It was great to be in their company again, to catch up with some of the news from around the district and to hear about all that they so wonderfully continue to offer to the life of the district.

I then had a couple of quiet days at home in which to get some Christmas shopping done before participating in several meetings via zoom on Friday 8th and being interviewed by Radio Derby on the morning of Sunday 10th.

On Monday 11th I was due to attend a reception at the Opera House, in Covent Garden, London, hosted by Action For Children, but unfortunately, the two hour train journey from York to London took 4 ¼ hours due to overhead line problems near Peterborough, so I arrived in London well after the event had started and so simply stayed the night in the hotel and travelled home again on Tuesday morning!

On Wednesday 13th I travelled to London again, this time more successfully, and was privileged to attend a reception at Lancaster House, St James' Palace, hosted by Lord David Cameron, the recently appointed Foreign Secretary. Along with some other clergy, I did manage to introduce myself to David and shake him by the hand, but we didn't have opportunity to engage him in conversation before he was whisked away to make his speech!

The next day, I travelled from London to Cambridge to join the District Chairs in their gathering at Jesus College and was pleased to be invited to lead the opening prayers in Jesus College Chapel at lunchtime on Thursday. Over the next 24 hours we enjoyed several sessions led by university professors and a tour of Wesley College Cambridge as well as a great Christmas meal at Gonville and Caius College and communion in the Jesus College chapel before leaving at Friday lunchtime.

From there I drove to Cornwall to spend a pre-Christmas weekend with all my Cornish family, delivering their Christmas gifts, and returned home to York on Monday 18th.

On the evening of Tuesday 19th, I was pleased to attend the annual gathering of the Yorkshire and the North East URC Moderators and Methodist District Chairs took place in York. We attended evensong together at York Minster and then enjoyed a meal together at the Dean Court Hotel.

The next day, it was my privilege to have been invited by Chaplain, Jack Key, to preach at the Carol Service at HMP Lindholme in Doncaster. I was accompanied by Michael Ivatt of the Connexional Media Team, so you may have already seen a report of this visit elsewhere! It was wonderful to be led in our carol singing by members of the Salvation Army Band and it was moving to have a congregation of prisoners, prison staff and chaplains together. Some of the prisoners formed a choir and some of them also contributed readings during the worship. I was impressed to see the depth of relationships that has been established between the chaplains and the prisoners and it was wonderful to have time to chat with many of those attending over a cup of tea and a mince pie after worship.

On 23rd and 24th December it was lovely to be free to accompany Leslie to the Nine Lessons and Carols services at Ripon Cathedral and York Minster respectively with Leslie reading one of the lessons in Ripon.

For the remainder of December, I have enjoyed a quiet, but wonderful Christmas at home in York with Leslie and Laura. I trust that you have all had a blessed Christmas and I wish you all a peaceful and hope-filled New Year.

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

November 2023

The first engagement during November was to visit the Action For Children project, located in Chesterfield, in this district. The Vice President and I were privileged to spend half a day with staff from the project itself and with others across Derbyshire who are linked to that work.

It was heartwrenching to hear about the situations they encounter and the lack of provision available for young people and their families through other channels, but wonderful to hear of the commitment of these staff to transforming lives. Methodism should be rightly proud to have Action For Children as part of its family.

During the week that followed, I attended the Cliff College Graduation Ceremony, held a planning meeting for the visit to the Darlington district next Spring, met with the Vice President to discuss the content of our Christmas video for the Connexion and was interviewed by the consultant who is helping the Conference Office with the review of our Complaints and Discipline processes. Other than that, I was planning and preparing for other events coming up later in the month.

On the evening of Thursday 9th, the Vice President and I were invited to participate in a Celebration of Chaplaincy event which was held online. Almost a hundred people gathered, most of whom are serving as chaplains in some capacity, and we shared in worship, listened to several short, but inspiring video messages from chaplains about where they find treasure in their roles and reflected together in small groups. Both Kerry and I were invited to speak to the group about how we felt the work of chaplains resonated with the presidential theme and we trust that the chaplains felt encouraged and supported through the event as there is no doubt that the work of our chaplains in their many and varied contexts is one of Methodism's treasures.

The following day Leslie and I went on another delayed train journey to Newcastle to attend the Thanksgiving Service for the Revd Canon Leo Osborn. Fortunately, we still arrived in time, and I was privileged to have been asked to lead prayers at this wonderful act of worship for which Newcastle Cathedral was packed. An amazing tribute to a wonderful servant of the church.

We stayed overnight in Newcastle, for which we were thankful, because many people had trouble in returning home because of further problems with the trains. We were able to spend a relaxed morning together in Newcastle before Leslie returned to York and I travelled onto London in readiness for the Remembrance Service the next day.

On Sunday 12th I travelled by tube to Charing Cross Underground Station and then walked through the crowds that were congregating and via numerous security checks to the back entrance of Downing Street where I was ushered into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office buildings for further security checks! Eventually I joined other Faith Leaders in our designated room for refreshments before being allocated our places in the parade out onto Whitehall for the Remembrance Service.

It was both humbling and moving to be amongst those stood around the Cenotaph. In the middle of a city which is usually so noisy and full of hustle and bustle, the two minutes silence was tangible, and you could have "heard a pin drop." After the laying of wreaths and the short act of remembrance we filed back into the building and reassembled in our room before being dismissed when there was certainty that members of the Royal Family had left the building!

I travelled home by train later that afternoon and had a few quiet days at home with just one zoom meeting on Monday morning to attend whilst preparing for the next district visit.

On Thursday 16th, I travelled by train to Stockport where we would be based for the next few days for a visit to the Manchester & Stockport / Bolton & Rochdale districts. Upon arrival, we checked into the hotel and were then taken to visit the Community Café running at Tiviot Dale Methodist Church. This was an inspiring project started as a Warm Space project last winter, but which has continued to grow and develop in response to local need during the year. The café serves up to 60 people with a warm two course meal every week as well as providing take away meals for those who prefer that. It was wonderful to see how hosts and guests were becoming indistinguishable as all had the opportunity to be involved in the preparation and serving of the meals. The space also offers opportunities for conversation and craft and as conversations are turning to matters of faith there are plans to offer a Christmas Carol Service and further opportunities to explore faith together in the New Year.

From there we joined some members of the United Stockport Circuit in a peaceful protest calling for a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine outside Stockport Town Hall as members of the Town Council arrived for their evening meeting.

Friday 17th, saw the Vice President and me travelling to Oldham for a gathering with the District Chair, Revd. Dr. Andrew Lunn and district officers from both districts. We engaged in an inspiring conversation about all that is challenging and exciting about the work and mission in which they are engaged and recognised the strength of their teamwork and the vision that is being pursued.

From there we went to visit the Methodist/Church of England Primary School at Stansfield Hall in Littleborough, where we were treated to a tour of the school, invited to join in a prayer time with some of the pupils who later engaged in conversation with us over a cup of tea and biscuits and then we shared in the Friday afternoon school assembly.

After that we enjoyed a delicious meal at the home of Deacon Marcianne Uwimana and then went with her to the switching on of the Christmas lights in the village of Syke and the Christmas Fayre held in the Community Hub based in Syke Methodist Church.

On Saturday 18th, it was my privilege to be the keynote speaker at a Spirituality Day organised by Reflect (Methodist Spirituality and Retreats Group) at Walkden Methodist Church in Bolton. The theme of the day was Hidden Treasures and during the afternoon we engaged in a variety of workshops, which for me included circle dancing and psalm writing.

The day after, I was pleased to have opportunity to preach at Cheadle Hulme Methodist Church where I had served as minister from 2006 to 2014 and catch up with many friends. That was followed by lunch with the staff team in the Glossop and Tameside Circuit ahead of sharing in a Justice event at Glossop Methodist Church which culminated in a Circuit service at 5.00 p.m. at which I was invited to preach.

After a day at home, it was back on the train to London on the afternoon of Tuesday 21st in preparation for some events over the next few days. Wednesday morning found me in the Houses of Parliament, at a Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) event at which I had been invited to chair a panel of four Christian MPs from various political parties for an audience of representatives from the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches together with members of the JPIT staff.

Conversation followed about how churches could better engage with MPs, and we heard more about the work being done by JPIT in relation to the climate crisis in particular. This was followed by a tour of the Houses of Parliament but because the Autumn Statement was being made, we were unable to see the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

From there we crossed to the Methodist Church Offices in Church House and the Methodist representatives to the JPIT gathering spent some time with Rachel Lampard offering feedback on the event and discussing the Walking with Micah report to the Conference. After that, the Vice President and I spent time with our PA Rachel Tufnell planning for future diary dates and signing hundreds of long service certificates for Local Preachers!

On Thursday 23rd, Kerry and I spent the morning with the Connexional Media team filming for our Christmas video message to the Connexion and then over lunch met with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Church of Scotland Ecumenical Officer and the Clerk to the Synod at Church House. That afternoon I caught a train to Southampton Airport Parkway where I was collected by my sister with whom I would stay for the next few days whilst visiting the Southampton District.

On Friday 24th, I visited the Leaders of Worship and Preachers (LWP) Home in Milborne Port, Sherborne, where I had been invited to lead worship in the chapel on the site of this warden assisted accommodation. It was a privilege to meet with trustees of LEP, staff of the home and others from the Circuit who had come to support the occasion. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet the Warden or many residents because of illness and other commitments. The act of worship was followed by a tour of one of the bungalows on site and a delicious buffet lunch in a nearby pub.

The following day Revd Nick Wood and his wife Suzannah took me to Holtwood Methodist Church for their Christmas Coffee Morning which was a vibrant affair well supported by the local community and with lots of tempting stalls and goodies to eat!

On Sunday morning it was good to share in the Big Breakfast worship at Verwood Methodist Church where about 30 people of all ages gathered to eat breakfast together and then to share in a short act of worship which included singing, prayers, a reflection and a craft activity. That was followed by morning worship led by Revd Nick Wood and at which I had been invited to preach.

The final event of this busy month was to engage in an inspiring "virtual" visit to Liberia with some of the staff of All We Can in which we heard about their work in that country and also engaged in conversation with some members of the organisation with which they are partnering there.

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

October 2023

Having concluded my visit to the Lancashire District on 1st October, I was then able to enjoy a few quiet days at home, preparing for what was to come during the month ahead and attending a few zoom meetings.

The following weekend I was at the NEC in Birmingham along with countless other volunteers, leaders and young people who had gathered for 3Generate, the Children's and Youth Assembly of the Methodist Church. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see many of the 100+ young people and leaders from this district who were there and to see the huge range of opportunities on offer for all the young people who gathered to have fun, engage in worship and prayer, consider how to respond to many of the challenges in the world today and make their voice heard both within the church and beyond. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and leaders from this district and across the connexion who made all that possible!

A few more days at home followed with a few more planning meetings and then on the afternoon of Thursday 12th October I travelled to Norwich and stayed there overnight. The next morning it was my sad duty and privilege to represent the Methodist Church at the funeral service of Revd Canon Leo Osborn at the parish church in Knapton, near North Walsham. Leo was one of my predecessors in the appointment at Cheadle Hulme Methodist Church, a former colleague in the Chairs' Meeting and the person who chaired the panel when I was appointed as the Chair of this district. So, he has been part of my journey over several years and his sudden death has shocked me and many others across the Methodist Connexion. He will be greatly missed, and it will be my privilege to represent the church again at a Memorial Service to be held in Newcastle in a few weeks' time.

Later that same day, I travelled on to Bishops Stortford via Norwich and Cambridge and spent the next few days in the home of Revd David Chapman, Chair of the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire district and his wife Sue, who provided wonderful hospitality throughout my time in that district.

On Saturday I shared in the leading of a Study Day for Local Preachers and Worship Leaders focussing on the healing ministry with Alison Bryan, Co-ordinator of Healing Ministry at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. On Sunday I preached at Bishops Stortford in the morning and for a Circuit Communion Service in the South Bedfordshire Circuit at The Square Methodist Church in Dunstable in the evening.

On Monday I led a session at a day conference for probationers and ministers in their early years at the Diocesan Retreat House in Pleshey and on Tuesday I met with District Officers at the District Office in Bishops Stortford in the morning and then made a visit to Queenswood School where I met with the Principal, the Chaplain and several of the girls who serve as Chapel Stewards.

On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th October I attended the meeting of the Methodist Council on zoom and was called upon to pray for the situation in Israel/Palestine following an update regarding the staff in the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem. Then on Sunday 22nd, I travelled to St James's Church in Piccadilly, London to represent the Methodist Church at an Ecumenical Vigil at which I was invited to read a prayer. It was a powerful and poignant occasion where people of many varied ages and backgrounds gathered to pray together for those who are feeling the impact of the troubles in Israel/Palestine most sharply.

The final week of the month was spent on annual leave during which I was grateful for time to spend with Leslie and Laura at home!

If you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

September 2023

The month of September has been a busy one, as is so often the case when the Connexional year begins again! Having shared in all the Welcome Services in the district, I headed for London where on the first Sunday in the month, I was privileged to preach at Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission at their morning worship. The Vice President and I were then able to share in an International Lunch, cooked by members of the culturally diverse congregation and then we had opportunity to look around John Wesley's House and the museum that are on the same site.

In the evening, the Vice President and I led worship at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, with Kerry preaching and me presiding at the healing communion service.

We stayed over in London on Sunday night and then on Monday met with representatives from All We Can for lunch and shared an interesting conversation about their work and the resonances between the Presidential theme of "Hidden Treasures" and all that they are seeking to do in working with communities overseas. Later in the afternoon we spent time filming at Methodist Central Hall, for a video that was released a few days later to mark the start of the Connexional year.

The following day we travelled from London to Manchester to speak at the annual new Connexional year service at Central Buildings, Manchester. Both the Vice President and I were invited to speak during this act of worship attended by staff from Central Buildings and TMCP and a good number of ecumenical and inter-faith partners. The worship was followed by a buffet lunch, a meeting with TMCP staff and a tour of the buildings with the ministry team, Revd Ian Rutherford, Deacon Jenny Jones, and Karen Attaway. It was inspiring to see and hear about the mission being exercised in and from the building and to see the Presidential theme picked up in displays around the premises.

Later that week, I was engaged in a few online meetings in preparation for commitments later in the month and then on Sunday 10th September, I was present at Sidedoor Methodist Church in Grimsby. Here I was privileged to induct the new Youth President, Tom Hart and to preside at Holy Communion in a wonderful service where our singing was accompanied by the Methodist Youth Brass Band and the sermon was preached by Revd Jade Bath.

During the week that followed I was in London again, this time to preach at the Annual Dedication Service held during the Methodist Independent Schools Trust (MIST) Conference at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine's. The Conference is attended by head teachers, governors, and trustees so it was good to attend one of their conference sessions in which they explored some of their plans and also engage in conversation with them over lunch.

During the week beginning Monday 25th September I spent three days at Bulford Barracks, near Andover, with the British Army! I was hosted by Assistant Chaplain General, Revd Richard Smith, with whom I trained at Wesley College in Bristol, so it was good to connect with him again. During the three days, I met with the Chaplain General and Deputy Chaplain General to hear about the role of chaplains and particularly Methodist chaplains within the army. I met with Army chaplains both informally and in a time of prayer of worship, visited the Garrison churches at Bulford, Tidworth and Larkhill and learned more about how the Welfare Teams operate within the Army. I also spent an afternoon on Salisbury Plain talking with and offering support to soldiers who were engaged in a practice exercise lasting several weeks and on the final day visited the Defence Academy where chaplains are trained as well as the Chaplaincy Museum, both in Shrivenham.

After just one night at home, it was then off to the Lancashire District for the final visit this month. On Friday afternoon I had a glorious time at St John's CofE/Methodist School in Brinscall, meeting with the Shining Flames, a group of children who help to lead worship in the school and then offering some input to the regular Friday afternoon worship at the school attended by parents and families as well as the children. The highlight of the afternoon was hearing some of the children perform a song called Hidden Treasures, composed by District Chair, Revd Phil Gough – a wonderful surprise.

From there we travelled to Trinity URC/Methodist Church in Great Harwood, Blackburn where I shared afternoon tea with a gathering of supernumerary ministers and shared with them the way in which the Vice President and I had discerned our theme for the year.

On Saturday 30th, I was invited to lead a Bible Encounter event on the Presidential theme at Leyland Methodist Church, Preston. About 40 people from across the district engaged in biblical reflection and enthusiastic conversation and I came away with many things to continue to reflect upon as our theme is developed during the year. After that, I was privileged to share lunch with some District officers at The Mill, a wonderful eating establishment in the grounds of St Catherine's Hospice before dropping into the end of Godly Play training that had been taking place at Ingol Methodist Church in Preston. The evening was spent at the Chair's manse, sharing in a meal and conversation with some of the younger ministers in the district and exploring the challenges and opportunities of ministry as they see them.

The final day was full of opportunities to lead worship and preach. On Sunday morning I was in a familiar place – Leslie's home church – at Torrisholme Methodist Church in Morecambe for Harvest celebrations followed by a lovely buffet lunch. From there I travelled to Lytham Methodist Church in the Blackpool and South Fylde Circuit for a Circuit service at 3.00 p.m. in which each church in the circuit shared something of the treasure they have discovered in their context. Then finally, I preached at the weekly district gathering for worship on zoom!

It's been a very busy but wonderful September and I can't believe that 3 months has already passed since my induction at the Conference. I continue to be incredibly grateful for all your prayers and as ever, if you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President? Alternatively look at the Facebook page of The President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference for lots of photos!

Gill Newton

August 2023

There's no doubt that the month of August, has been a quiet month in terms of Presidential responsibilities and is probably the lull before the storm! But, it's been good to have a slightly slower pace for a week or two, with time to prepare for all that lies ahead!

For the first two weeks of the month, I was on holiday, and we enjoyed a lovely family time together in Disneyland, Paris for one of those weeks. We had great fun there as well as a more cultured day in the city of Paris itself!

Once back at work I spent some time with Revd Julie Coates our Deputy District Chair who will be carrying most of the Chair's responsibilities during this Presidential year. I know that Julie will do a wonderful job, but please do keep her in your prayers during this year as she fulfils this role alongside her responsibilities in the Trinity Circuit.

During the remaining two weeks of August, I have had a few meetings on zoom with Connexional colleagues such as the Youth President, the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Conference and the Connexional Communications Team. However, I have spent most of the time preparing sermons and talks for the events coming up at the start of September.

Over the Bank Holiday at the end of the month, the Vice President and I spent three days at the Greenbelt Festival, near Kettering. This was a new experience for me, although ardent Festival attenders would probably tell me that we didn't get the full experience as we weren't camping but chose instead, to stay at a local hotel!

During the weekend, we spent a good deal of time at the Hope and Anchor, the Methodist pop-up "dry" bar and place for "real talk" and deep conversations. We didn't get the opportunity to work "behind the bar" as we had hoped, but there are some photographs around that make it seem as if we did!!

We met with the CEO of Christian Aid for conversation about their charitable work and bumped into numerous Methodists who were either volunteering at or simply attending the festival. We were privileged to listen to Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister, speak passionately about the need to end poverty and were proud to see the Let's End Poverty charity of which the Methodist Church is a foundational partner, be launched over the weekend.

At the end of the month, I was privileged to preach at all three welcome services in this District and to share in the leading of those services with our Deputy Chair, Julie Coates, and the acting Superintendents in each Circuit, Tom Read, and Claire Rawlinson. It has been a joy to welcome John Henry as the Superintendent in the Doncaster Circuit, Lyn Gregg and Louise Carr as the Superintendent in the Barnsley Circuit and Louise Makin and Andrew Fox as the Superintendent in the Rotherham and Dearne Valley Circuit! I am thankful for each of them and trust that they will all settle well into their new appointments in this district.

Life is undoubtedly going to get busier now as the new Connexional year begins, so I'm sure I'll have lots of news to share at the end of September, but if you want to read more about anything in which I've been involved this year so far, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President?

1st August 2023

It's hard to believe that a month has already passed since my Induction, but it's been a good month full of varied experiences!

Just a few days after the Methodist Conference, the Vice President and I flew to Vienna for an ecumenical conference celebrating 50 years of the Leuenberg Agreement, a covenant between protestant churches across Europe.

We experienced multi-lingual worship and challenging discussions on topics such as theological training, communication, diaconal work, and reconciliation. We met many other senior leaders of various denominations including Methodists from across Europe, recognised that we are all facing many of the same challenges and sought to learn from each other. And in a couple of spare hours, the Vice President and I took the opportunity to go and explore the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace!

A few days after returning from Vienna, we embarked upon a four-day visit to the Yorkshire North and East District, but of course, that didn't mean travelling very far from home for me!

The visit included meeting with supernumerary ministers, their partners and widow(er)s on Saturday and an interview on Radio York and preaching in Tadcaster, Nafferton and Queen Street, Scarborough on Sunday.

On Monday the Vice President and I visited two projects in Hull, a drop-in centre at Selby Street Mission and the Re-Uniform project at Trinity Methodist Church, Hull. Both initiatives are really making a difference to the lives of the people in the communities they serve. In the afternoon we visited the Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley and joined with the Woolly Wesleys, a group bringing together those with an interest in handicrafts and using their skills to make, amongst other things, blankets for refugees.

Tuesday was spent at the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate where we dodged the showers, watched sheep shearing, show jumping and sheep dog trials, and had good conversations with those in rural ministry and with farmers and landowners about the challenges they are currently facing.

The following weekend, the Vice President and I travelled to Dorchester in Dorset for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. Unfortunately, due to the torrential rain and high winds experienced in the area on Friday, most of the festival events were cancelled. This meant some quick rethinking on the part of the Superintendent of the Dorset South and West Circuit, Revd John Yarrien, who was our host for the weekend.

We spent Saturday afternoon on Portland, visiting and hearing about the hopes and plans for the Grade II listed church buildings which are in a prime position in the community and almost getting blown away during our trip to Portland Bill.

On Sunday we attended the festival worship at St John the Evangelist Church in Tolpuddle and afterwards had the privilege of speaking to some descendants of the Tolpuddle workers. We learned that a small wreath laying ceremony was still going to take place, so we were privileged to walk through the village from the Tolpuddle Museum to the Anglican Church to lay the wreath from the Methodist Church, alongside those of several different Trade Union Movements and the Anglicans.

During the afternoon there was time to explore the village of Tolpuddle itself including the Old Chapel, which we got to see inside later in the day, and the tree under which the workers are reputed to have sworn allegiance to each other and effectively formed the first Trade Union.

In the evening I was privileged to preach at the Dorset South and East Circuit Service held in the Tolpuddle Chapel where members of the Circuit were joined by some festival organisers who had not yet gone home! Our journeys home on Monday were interrupted as more strikes by rail workers had an impact and the irony of that was not lost on us, given where we had spent the previous few days!

The following weekend, I had been invited to participate in a photo shoot for the next edition of the Connexion magazine at Trinity Methodist Church in Bramley, Leeds. The minister of that church is Revd Rach Ward who has previously served in the Sheffield District, so hearing that I would be in Bramley, she extended an invitation to me to preach at Trinity on Sunday morning.

It was a joy to share in worship and Holy Communion with a genuinely diverse and inter-generational congregation and then afterwards to be part of the photo shoot and hear all about the garden project which the young people in the EcoSaints group are working on. You'll have to read the next edition of the Connexion magazine to get the full story on that!

Scattered through the month there have also been meetings with the Connexional Communications Team, the Youth President and the Vice President as we look ahead to events that are coming up.

If you want to read more about any of these visits and see photographs, then why not follow this link to the blog of the President and Vice President?

1st July 2023

Wow! What an amazing week it has been! Arriving at the Hilton Metropole Hotel on Wednesday 20th June, ready for the District Chairs' Meeting followed by the Presbyteral Session of the Conference, made everything very real and I started to appreciate just what was lying ahead!

However, I needn't have worried! Walking into the Conference Hall, following the induction, to rapturous applause, saw me and Kerry duly welcomed and carried along by the prayers of the Methodist people through the whole weekend and the week of Conference business that followed.

The ordination service on Sunday afternoon was a great occasion. I have always been an advocate for having our ordination services on Methodist premises, but it was a great privilege to preside at the service in Coventry Cathedral and to lay hands on all the presbyteral ordinands together with the World Church representative and their assisting minister.

Our theme for the year of "Hidden Treasures" was warmly received and referred to many times during the Conference business as speakers came to the lecterns. This offered great affirmation that it seemed to be a timely word for the church which had been latched onto by many who heard it spoken of at the Opening Ceremony and Conference worship.

I have been glad of an opportunity to rest and prepare for what comes next over the last three days and am now looking forward to a trip to Vienna from 3rd to 5th July to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Leuenberg Agreement, an agreement made between protestant churches across Europe in 1973. That will be followed by a visit to the Yorkshire North and East District from 8th to 11th July during which I will be able to stay at home and then a visit to the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Dorset from 15th to 17th July.

24th June 2023

The Revd. Gill Newton and Deacon Kerry Scarlet have been elected President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference at thge Hilton Birmingham Metropole.

You can re-watch the election and Gill and Kerry affirming some of their promises in their new roles.

You can re-watch the whole session including Gill's Presidential address here.

22nd June 2023

The Revd Gill Newton and Deacon Kerry Scarlett will be inducted as President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference on the afternoon of Saturday 24 June at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.

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