The Cumbria District was delighted to welcome the President of the Conference, the Revd Graham Thompson, to the county from 24th to the 26th September 2022.
Cumbria is a Covenanted Partnership in Extended Area, now in its 12th year as the first ecumenical county in the country. It is divided into approximately 35 ecumenical Mission Communities. Whilst some are at earlier stages of development, others have shared worship plans that seek to avoid competing services in the same local communities, for example between Anglicans and Methodists, while others share joint ministry in addition to undertaking mission and social outreach together.
On the Saturday evening, the President visited the Solway Plain Mission Community in the north west of the county. There the President met and mingled with members of several denominations at a development meeting, led by the Archdeacon of Cumberland and the co-superintendent of the North Cumbria Circuit, the Revd Philip Jackson. At the end of the evening, the President was invited to offer reflections and prayers, and his encouragement was warmly received.
The following Sunday morning, the President preached inspirationally on the lectionary at a circuit service to commission the newly merged Carlisle Methodist Church, held at Wigton Road, Carlisle. The merged church comprises four different congregations from small to large who will continue to worship in their own or in shared premises, but who have formed a single church to share governance and leadership to focus better the Methodist witness in Carlisle, and to help coordinate more effectively the ecumenical and outreach initiatives in the city. The service was led by the other co-superintendent for the North Cumbria Circuit, the Revd David Newlove, during which the President also led members and officers in an act of commitment. This was followed by a joyful, celebratory lunch.
Recent Presidential and Vice-Presidential visits to the District have allowed different issues or parts of the District to be focused upon. This time, in the light of the President's own long ministry, he was asked to spend time with both the supernumerary and active ministers, listening and supporting.
On the Sunday afternoon at the district manse in Penrith, the President met supernumeraries and their partners from the northern part of the District; and, similarly on the Monday morning, he met with those from the south at the recently refurbished Levens Methodist Church. Stories were exchanged; former connections with the President were renewed; and the ministry of those who have shown the way was gratefully acknowledged and affirmed. Whether in Graham's ready ability to engage with and value all whom he met, or in the reflections and prayers that he offered, here was the President connecting us with the wider connexion, with one another, and with God.
Finally, on the Monday afternoon at Stricklandgate Methodist Church in Kendal, the President met with ministers in the active work. In an open and collaborative conversation, current experiences and concerns, initiatives and possibilities for the Church, were shared and reflected upon, with weariness and realism, energy and hope, all set alongside each other. Here too the President, in a grounded way, was able to encourage the calling and commitment of those who were gathered, as he led us to a sustained and renewed confidence in Christ, which would be our privilege to continue to share with and alongside others.