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Presidential Reflections for Sheffield District – Gill Newton

September 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.

The Revd Gill Newton is a lifelong Methodist who came into ministry in 1997 after a career in banking. She has been the District Chair for the Sheffield District since 2014, having previously served in Barnsley and Bramhall & Wythenshawe Circuits. She is National Chaplain to the Girls' Brigade in England and Wales and a Walk to Emmaus Community member.

Deacon Kerry Scarlett has been a Methodist deacon since 2008. In the Methodist Church in Britain, the Methodist Diaconal Order is both an order of ministry and a religious order. Mrs Scarlett works as part of the Connexional Learning Network Team and is aligned with the Birmingham District. She has a particular interest in social justice and community organising and developing the West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network and the anti-trafficking charity Adavu which supports survivors of modern slavery.

The Revd Gill Newton says: "It is a great honour to have been invited to serve as the President of the Methodist Conference. I am looking forward to meeting the Methodist people and those with whom we partner across the Connexion, and uncovering more of what God is doing."

Deacon Kerry Scarlett says:"It's a real honour to have been asked to represent the Methodist Church in Britain as Vice President. I am excited for the many opportunities and experiences which lie ahead, but especially the chance to meet with people from local churches and communities all across the Connexion, to listen to their stories, and to discover the hidden treasures of what God is doing in our midst."

You can follow the Conference online and watched streamed sessions here

Regular updates from Gill will be shared in the District through our weekly mailing, website and social media channels.

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