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Gill on Tour

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Presidential Reflections for Sheffield District – Gill Newton

June 2024

The first weekend in May enabled me and Leslie to combine a Presidential visit with a friend's birthday celebrations. So, on Friday 3rd May we travelled by train from York to Okehampton in Devon and then by bus from Okehampton to Launceston in Cornwall where we were to spend the weekend with my Mum!

On Saturday 4th we were able to attend a 60th birthday party for my best friend from childhood days and then on Sunday were able to worship with some of my family at Bridge Church in Launceston.

On Bank Holiday Monday, May 6th, Leslie and I were collected by Revd Chris Jackson and driven to Madworthy Methodist Church in the West Devon Circuit where celebrations were taking place to mark the refurbishment of the premises. This small rural chapel is seeing growth following their decisions to become a rural hub, to hold inter-generational worship each week and to reach out to the surrounding communities in any way possible. It was my privilege to preach at the celebratory worship that took place on Monday morning.

After lunch that day, Leslie and I travelled to from Okehampton to Exeter St David's and then from there on a delayed train to Birmingham where we stayed overnight in the City Centre.

The following morning, Leslie travelled home to York, and I travelled onto the Yarnfield Conference Centre, near Stafford, where I joined with the deacons from across the Connexion for their annual Convocation.

Over the following four days I had opportunity to bring greetings to the Deacons from the wider connexion, jointly lead an evening of prayer with the Vice-President and preach at the closing communion service as well as join in all sessions of the Convocation.

When Convocation finished on Friday 10th, the Vice President and I travelled to Swansea by train in readiness for our weekend of visits in Wales Synod Cymru.

On Saturday morning we visited the Oguf Adullum project in Penlan where a church, no longer housing a worshipping congregation has become a community hub for many different groups and hosts a community garden and a Mens Shed. We had opportunity to meet many of the people who call the project home and were treated to music from a Welsh Male Voice Choir who rehearse in the building.

After lunch and a walk on the beach in Porthcawl, we travelled to North Cornelly where I was privileged to preach at the Centenary celebrations and the Vice President led intercessory prayers. We had the evening free so were able to enjoy a walk along the bay back in Swansea.

On Sunday, we had lunch with Revd Dr Jenny Hurd, one of the District Chairs and then went to Brynhyfryd where I preached at another Centenary celebration and the Vice President brought greetings from the Conference and led prayers. The service was in Welsh and English, and one song was contributed in Punjabi.

Later that afternoon I travelled back to York by train and was able to enjoy a couple of days at home with just my regular meeting with the Secretary of Conference in the diary, before setting off on my travels again!

On Wednesday 15th, Leslie and I travelled together to Oxford for the Superintendents' Conference where we had both been invited to speak. Later that day, I offered a keynote speech on "The Connexion from the perspective of the President" and then on Friday 17th, I presided at the closing communion service at which the preacher was the Secretary of the Conference, the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler.

On Friday afternoon, Leslie returned to York, whilst I travelled onto London for the London district visit during the week ahead.

On Saturday afternoon, the Vice President and I led a bible study on the theme of Hidden Treasures at Hinde Street Methodist Church, attended by the District Chairs and people from across the London District.

There was an early start for me on Sunday morning, meeting district chair, the Revd Nigel Cowgill at Waterloo Station and then travelling to East Moseley in the Teddington Circuit, where I preached at their 175th Church Anniversary service and shared in lunch with the congregation following the service.

In the afternoon we travelled to Wallington Methodist Church in the Sutton Circuit for the Ordinand's Testimony Service of Deacon Marie Poole at which the Vice President preached, and I was privileged to lead prayers. The service was attended by people from across the district and a number of Deacons from around the Connexion.

On Monday 20th, I met with Supernumerary ministers and their partners from around the district at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster for lunch. Following the meal, I shared some thoughts on the Presidential theme and a time of conversation followed.

The next day, I travelled to Romford, where I was met by district chair, Revd Dr Jongi Zihle, and taken to the Romford Circuit Mission Outreach Project (RCMOP). This initiative is headed up by Deacon Sarah Jane Rigby and is based in the premises of Romford Methodist Church where there is no longer a worshipping congregation. The premises are now used by several community groups working in partnership with the church and I was blessed to meet with some of the children from the nearby primary school who come to the church grounds each week for their gardening club.

Following a lovely lunch with the Management Team of the RCMOP, I travelled with Jongi back into central London where we gathered at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster with members of the Fellowship Groups meeting in the district for a time of sharing and prayer.

I was given the day off on Wednesday, but unfortunately it was a very wet day so apart from some exploration of the area around Kings Cross and Euston, I spent much of the day inside, spending my time reading and doing some crochet!!

On Thursday 23rd, I visited Lambeth Methodist Church which is currently a building site. The former church has been demolished and a new church with ancillary rooms and two flats, plus a Premier Inn are now being built on the site. Following conversation with church members and the minister, the Revd Dr Andy Lyons, in a nearby hall where they are currently meeting for worship, I was taken, with the district chair, the Revd Nigel Cowgill, on a hard hat visit of the building site.

Following lunch at Pizza Express with Nigel and Andy, Nigel and I travelled by bus to Methodist Central Hall, Westminster where I met with the Vice President, the superintendent minister, the Revd Tony Miles, the Revd Lansford Penn-Timity and Deacon Ali McMillan. We all made our way to Westminster Abbey, where arrangements had been made for us to be taken on a tour of the Abbey by invitation of the Dean.

As a group we had our own well-informed guide who took us to parts of the Abbey, not generally accessed by members of the public and we ended our tour by participating in evensong.

Later that evening, the Vice President and I shared a meal with members of the District Council at the Colosseo Restaurant and enjoyed hearing about the challenges the district faces as well as their vision for the future.

Friday was, of course, Wesley Day, so we were ready for a day of celebration, which began with an act of worship at Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission at which Kerry preached and I led the prayers of intercession.

Following the worship, we shared in the pilgrimage from Wesley's Chapel to St Paul's Cathedral, accompanied by the music of the Susanna Wesley Foundation members and stopping to pray at Susanna Wesley's Grave and the Memorial Flame at the Barbican along the way.

Once at St Paul's Cathedral, we shared in the daily Eucharistic service during which the Vice President and I were both invited to read scripture and to share in the distribution of bread and wine.

After the service we gathered in the North Garden for some final prayers and singing around the John Wesley statue before Kerry and I headed back across London to catch our train to Chesterfield.

Once in Chesterfield, we got a taxi to Cliff College where I was glad to meet up with Leslie again and settle into our room for the weekend of Cliff Festival.

During the weekend, I was pleased to be interviewed in the Hope and Anchor bar about the Presidential theme, attend the Alumni event and pray for the college and its future, preach and preside at communion at the Anniversary service on Monday and be interviewed for Cliff Festival Live with the Vice President.

Leslie and I returned home from Cliff College on Tuesday morning and were then pleased to have the remaining days of the week, up to and including Saturday, as annual leave. Having been away from home for two weeks, I was glad to get back to my own bed and to make use of the washing machine!!

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, June 2024

May 2024

The month began with Leslie and I still taking some annual leave which was very welcome following our recent bereavement, but by Thursday 4th April, I was on my way to Manchester in readiness for a flight to Guernsey early the next morning.

On Friday 5th, I flew to Guernsey and was met at the airport by Superintendent Minister, Revd Howard Stringer who took me to the hotel to check in before we met the Dean of Guernsey, Revd Tim Barker for lunch in St Peter Port. It was encouraging to hear about the depth and effectiveness of the ecumenical relationships on the island and particularly how well the churches had been able to speak with one voice and relate to the authorities during the Covid pandemic.

Later in the day, I was joined for a meal at the hotel by Revd Howard Stringer and members of the Circuit Leadership Team. It was good to have time to get to know them and discover more about the joys and challenges of Methodism on the island.

On Saturday 6th, I was taken, early in the morning, to the airport, to catch the 19-seater plane to Alderney. There had been some concern about whether the flights would happen because of the relatively strong winds, so I went prepared with an overnight bag in case I got to Alderney but couldn't get back!!

The flight was fine, and I spent a wonderful day being given two separate tours of each side of the island by two well informed members of the church. I had lunch with the church members, saw the extensive refurbishments that had been undertaken and heard the wonderful story of how they have moved from being a class of Les Capelles Methodist Church on Guernsey just twelve years earlier when their membership was very small to now being reinstated as a church, as their membership has grown to in excess of 20.

Later that day I flew back to Guernsey and spent a quiet evening in the hotel before a busy Sunday which included speaking at "God and Marmalade", a café style worship at Forest Methodist Church, offering a summary of the Presidential theme at the all-age worship at Les Capelles Methodist church, enjoying a wonderful lunch with two Circuit Stewards and then preaching at a Circuit Service at Les Camps Methodist Church.

On Monday 8th I flew from Guernsey to Bristol Airport and then by a shuttle bus and a few trains I made my way to Dinas Powys, near Cardiff in Wales to join the South Asian Forum – a gathering of leaders, representatives and partners from and with churches in South Asia – at Hebron Hall Christian Centre.

The following morning, it was my privilege to lead the opening worship and then to share in the morning sessions, before leaving and making my way back to York on a few trains!!

Wednesday 10th saw me participating in a debriefing meeting with a member of the media team about my visit to the Channel Islands district, a planning meeting with all those who are preaching at Cliff Festival in June, a meeting with the Vice President to do some planning for future events and my regular monthly telephone conversation with the Secretary of Conference.

The following day, Leslie, Laura and I travelled to Morecambe to spend some of the day with Leslie's brother and his family who had arrived from Germany ahead of the Thanksgiving Service for their Mum the following day at Torrisholme Methodist Church.

After the Thanksgiving Service we stayed overnight in Lancaster and then the next morning I travelled by train from there to Leamington Spa where the Methodist Council was being held over the following three days.

On Sunday morning, the Vice President and I had the privilege of leading worship within which we shared our reflections on the Presidential year so far, providing those present with some insights into the Hidden Treasures we have discovered on our travels around the Connexion.

Having returned home on Monday evening, I was able to enjoy three days at home during which time I attended my regular meetings with the Communications Team and the Secretary of Conference via zoom as well as participating in a virtual fundraising event for All We Can where we heard inspiring stories about some of their work with partners in Liberia.

On Friday 19th, I spent most of the day driving to Devon where I was to spend a few days staying with a childhood friend and her husband. He happens to be a Circuit Steward in the Bude and Holsworthy Circuit which was to be the focus of my visit to the Plymouth and Exeter District that weekend.

I spent Saturday morning with the Beach Pastors on Summerleaze Beach in Bude, which is, I believe, a unique project within the Connexion. During the summer months this group work from a beach hut at the entrance to the beach, providing buckets, spades, surfing equipment, cups of tea and a listening ear for free.

That was followed by a delicious lunch with some of the team at The Little Pig, near Kilkhampton before travelling on to visit Woodford Methodist Church. Here they have developed a wonderful community garden, and it was good to meet both church members and people from the wider community who have worked on the project. The produce is used to cook meals at the church and much of it is also placed in baskets at the front of the church to be taken away by anyone who needs it. The church is also working hard to make their building more eco-friendly.

On Sunday 21st it was my privilege to preach at Bude Methodist Church where worship was led by Deacon Debbie Marsh and then to share lunch with the Circuit Leadership Team before returning to Bude Methodist Church for afternoon tea and then a District Service in which I was interviewed about my year so far and the Hidden Treasures theme by Rev Dan Haylett, Plymouth and Exeter District Chair.

On Monday morning I drove to Launceston and was able to spend the next few days with my Mum, working from her home rather than returning to York, only to travel down again ready for the visit to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly district.

On the afternoon of Thursday 25th, I travelled to Truro and spent the evening with District Chair, Revd Loraine Mellor, ensuring that I knew what was involved in all aspects of the district visit!

Friday 26th found me at Debigna Prayer Chapel, a beautifully remote chapel which has been designated as a prayer chapel and retreat space and behind which there is a beautiful prayer garden. I led a group of about twenty people in a Quiet Morning of Prayer before sharing lunch with Loraine.

From there we travelled to the Epworth Centre at Central Methodist Church in Helston where I met the members of many different groups who meeting in this building which has had considerable work done to it to make it suitable for use by community groups and in which the work is still ongoing. It was encouraging to see their engagement with the community and to have opportunity to share something of the Hidden Treasures theme with them before sharing afternoon tea together.

Later that evening I joined a panel including the Mayor of Truro, Carol Swain and the CEO of St Petrocs Homelessness Charity, Henry Meacock, chaired by Revd Loraine Mellor, for "An Evening With The President" at Epiphany House in Truro. This event provided an opportunity for all of us to respond to questions posed by Loraine and by members of the invited audience.

On Saturday, I was collected from the hotel by Revd Iris Bray and taken to Bugle Methodist Church where I joined with the gathered crowd to celebrate the refurbishment of their Crossroads Hall by eating the plentiful Cornish refreshments and unveiling a plaque to commemorate the event.

From there I was taken to Leek Seed Methodist Church by Revd Paul Benney, to whom I happen to be related(!), where they were celebrating their 200th Anniversary. I had opportunity to contribute to the act of worship by sharing something of the Presidential theme and by unveiling another plaque to commemorate this special anniversary. It was also good to meet members of the Girls' Brigade group based there who had made the commemorative banner.

After a lovely lunch I was taken by Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson to Truro Methodist Church where it was my privilege to sign the historic roll of Presidents and Vice Presidents held at that church and to hear from Mark about the exciting refurbishment project upon which the church is about to embark.

The following morning, I drove to Frogpool Methodist Church in the Falmouth and Gwennap Circuit where I was pleased to preach at their Circuit Service before returning to Launceston where I collected my Mum and joined Revd David Miller and his wife Liz for lunch. From there we went to Launceston Central Methodist Church where I had been invited to preach at a Circuit Service in my home Circuit acknowledging the Church Anniversary of Boyton Methodist Church where I had grown up.

After spending a final evening with my Mum, I drove back to York on Monday 29th May and was glad then to have a few relaxing days at home as Leslie and I enjoyed our quarter days designed for study and time away from the normal demands of ministry.

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

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
March 2024

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
February 2024

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

December 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

November 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

October 2023

The month of September has been a busy one, as is so often the case when the Connexional year begi

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