13 April 2017
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist
Conference, the Revd Dr Roger Walton and Ms Rachel Lampard MBE,
speak about confidence, suffering and hope in this year's Easter
"...Do we sometimes race over the reflection of holy week
and the pain of Good Friday, in order to reach the joy of
"...The Christian vocation means feeling and facing the
suffering and injustice of the world, alongside God, until new
creation is complete. Staying with suffering and tackling injustice
is no easy option but is where Christian confidence takes
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Full text below:
A few weeks ago we both attended the launch of JPIT (Joint
Public Issues Team) Yorkshire in Leeds along with about 100 other
people. It was held in the grand surroundings of the Civic
Centre, high ceilings, gilt-painted mirrors, and plaques listing
the great achievers of the industrial and civic life of the
city. The self-assured grandeur of the surroundings sat a
little uneasily with the title of the conference: "Recovering
confidence in the North".
The building spoke of a confidence of a time long gone; the
conference looked at how through the decades since that economic
and cultural confidence had been lost. The reality of poverty
ingrained in parts of various cities in the north, the loss of
industry, the London economic magnet, sucking life out of the
rest of the country. But the speakers also spoke about
the confidence which exists in the North, and is even growing.
It seems that northern businesses and politicians are taking
up the notion of a 'Northern Powerhouse' though perhaps they are
reshaping around themselves and their aspirations rather than the
needs of local people. The conference ended on a note of
hope, with the signing of an agreement between the Methodist,
Baptist and URC leaders in Yorkshire, along with Rachel as the
leader of the Joint Public Issues Team, to work together on issues
of peace and justice in the region.
We sometimes struggle with the word "confidence". Our
Secretary of Conference, Gareth Powell, has encouraged us to be
churches of confidence and imagination. But around us we see
church membership declining and a huge demographic cliff of younger
(and not so young) people who are simply not in our churches.
We have a shortage of ministers to station, and for many people it
feels like a bit of a battle just to keep going. Is it hard
to keep preaching the gospel of resurrection if we have so little
confidence in the present?.
Some of it is surely how we understand confidence. It is
often portrayed as self-confidence that needs to be asserted, so
that our view and agenda triumphs over others, so that we get that
job, win that debate, capture that vote, gain that power
advantage. Christian confidence is quite different. It
is a confidence not in ourselves but in a crucified God, in Jesus
raised from the dead and in the Holy Spirit making all things
new. St Paul says that he had lots of grounds for
confidence in himself but that he has counted all that as loss or
waste - he uses a rather stronger word meaning utter rubbish - for
the sake of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection
(Philippians 3.3-11). This is the Christian confidence we
need as churches, a confidence that the crucified one has been
raised and that God's love is calling into a different kind of
But we should note that Paul doesn't stop at knowing Christ and
the power of his resurrection but also includes the calling to
'share Christ's sufferings'. It is not easy to know what this
means exactly but it suggests that the Christian vocation means
feeling and facing the suffering and injustice of the world,
alongside God, until new creation is complete. Staying with
suffering and tackling injustice is no easy option but is where
Christian confidence takes us. The English word confidence
comes from the root words of con "staying with" and fides "faith"
Staying with the faith is a far more appropriate way of
understanding confidence at Easter.
I went on a Good Friday walk of witness a few years ago.
While we handed out hot cross buns to slightly bemused passersby,
we sang songs, led by a band from the local free church.
These were songs of resurrection, of rejoicing, of the redemptive
power of the resurrected Christ. The wooden cross, being
carried at the front of the procession seemed rather lonely and out
Do we sometimes race over the reflection of holy week and the
pain of Good Friday, in order to reach the joy of Easter? And
by doing this, do we deny the pain? Are we really staying
with the faith?
We visited Blaydon Foodbank a few weeks ago. This
church-run foodbank, like so many others, stays with people through
their pain. The volunteers help and hold people through their
hunger, pain and difficulties. The church at Blaydon, where
the foodbank is based, has doubled in membership, with volunteers
and foodbank clients coming to learn more about this confident
faith, a faith that stays with people through their pain, and
allows people to catch the infectious hope that there is
We pray that we will all deepen our confidence in Christ, as we
journey through the last part of Lent and Holy Week to the pain of
the cross and the glory of the Resurrection. May it allow us
to stay with the suffering of the world with irrepressible hope,
and may it inspire our imaginations so we share in a thousand
different ways the good news of Jesus, risen and alive.
Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard