And are we yet alive,
And see each other’s face?
Glory, and thanks to Jesus give
For his almighty grace!

When Charles Wesley (1707-1788) first wrote this hymn in 1749, he originally conceived his text in four eight-line stanzas. In 1780, John Wesley included it as six four-line stanzas at the beginning of the section titled, “For the Society … at meeting” in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodist. The original four stanzas represents a missional progression through the Wesleyan “way of salvation.” This hymn suggests what I called “Conferencing” question, ‘And are we yet alive, And see each other’s face? On the theme for the Presidential year 2020-2021 about growth (personal and corporately), Carolyn Lawrence, Vice President of the Methodist Conference explained that Charles’ hymn points us to what it means to be missionally alive in order to grow as a church.[1]

The British Methodist Conference will meet at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham, from tomorrow, Thursday 24 June to Thursday 1 July, 2021. Reflecting on the “conferencing” ethos of the hymn by Charles, indeed we have been through “toils and snares’ of Covid-19/Floyd since we last saw each other. Let us give thanks to God for His prevenient grace that has been with us, preserving and protecting us even in our absence from one another especially in Covid -19/Floyd year.

Let us give thanks to God for the successful ordination services across the connexion. Let us pray for them and their families for unction to function for the health and growth of the church. O Lord, let the newly ordained ministers be your soldiers, your prophets, your priests, and lead your people in transforming home, church and the world.

Let us thank God for our out-going President and Vice President of Conference – Rev Richard Teal and Carolyn Lawrence. I think, communicating the Gospel and leading the church through a Covid-19/Floyd year remains an unforgettable memory. Church activities were stopped as parts of the government measures to control the spread of the virus coupled with the global protests against murder of George Floyd in America. Richard and Carolyn grasped the overall picture as they took courageous steps in spreading and communicating hope and assurance to the nation. Joshua 1:9 remind us that God is with us and we are to take courage in facing challenges and crisis. Richard and Carolyn modified their approaches especially through the first and second waves of the pandemic with the use of social media – YouTube, Facebook among others to ensure continued care and fellowship among churches, leaders and members. Let us pray and thank God for the unique leadership of Richard and Carolyn in such a difficult time. Let us remember their families in prayer and in their future roles.

Let us pray and thank God for the Secretary of Conference, Rev Dr Jonathan Hustler and his Team at the Methodist House, our leaders and workers at the district, circuit, and local church levels. Let us pray for all the staffs and delegates at the Conference this years. Let us cover them with the blood of Jesus and protection over their families at home. Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit during and after the Conference.

Let us pray and thank God for His justifying grace that saves from sin and His righteousness imputed to us. Let us pray for personal and corporate experience of God’s redeeming grace and work of regeneration in us especially during the Conference. Let us pray that God’s sanctifying grace continues to work in us and through every deliberations, debates and resolutions at the Conference.

The Conference agenda covers crucial aspects of the leadership, theology, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Church. Let us pray for the unction of the Holy Spirit upon all Conference officers and delegates as key decisions will be made in the areas of marriage and relationships, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and oversight and trusteeship. Let us pray for another Pentecost that brings the fire of God upon our leaders and passion for the souls of people during and after the Conference. Christian practice proceeds from right belief. Let us pray for the openness to the Holy Spirit and the Scripture on the difference between pastoral care and theological debate at the Conference. Let us pray for the Conference for grace to draw together the biblical evidence comprehensively in order to present a coherent framework of missional principles that shapes Scriptural holiness.

On Saturday 26th June, 2021, ‘the Conference will formally elect the Revd Sonia Hicks as President, who together with Barbara Easton as Vice-President, will begin a year of office when the Representative Session’ opens. Let us pray that Sonia and Barbara will be empowered with the leading of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of God’s Word and encouragement to God’s people (Matt 28:19-20).

Alan Padgett, writing from a Methodist perspective, says ‘numerical growth is only healthy when it is accompanied by growth in other areas of spirituality namely ‘outreach, biblical and theological depth, and the struggle for peace and justice.’[2] As we pray to be God’s people in a sinful world, affected by a global pandemic and institutional racism, let us pray for the work of Holy Spirit in us  and with us again, ‘a Spirit-born resurgence of Scriptural Christianity.’ Let us pray for an inclusive and open deliberations bearing in mind Jesus’ invitation to the exclusive banquet (Matt 22:11-13).

Let us pray that the Conference as a “gathered” local and global communion of saints will not just have the form of religion without the power of the Holy Spirit. The truth remains, whatever happens at the Conference will not change God or His Word and plan (Jn 3:16). Let us give thanks to God, for the church of God is marching on and the gate of hell shall not prevail in Jesus mighty name (Matt 16:17-19).

[1] Lawrence, Carolyn, And are we yet alive? – Theology Everywhere

[2] Padgett, Alan, ‘The Church Growth Movement: A Wesleyan Critique,’ in The Mission of the Church in the Methodist Perspective (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), p. 141; see also Piggot, Alan, ‘Growth and decline in London Methodism, 1980 to the present’ in Goodhew, David, Cooper, Anthony-Paul (eds), The Desecularisation of the City: London’s Churches, 1980 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2019), pp. 148-164