26 June 2021
President and Vice-President elected and inducted
The Revd Sonia Hicks
The Revd Sonia Hicks has been elected and inducted as President of the Methodist Conference. The induction took place on Saturday 26 June at the National Conference Centre, Birmingham, during the Methodist Conference which is taking place in hybrid form this year.
Sonia Hicks, who comes from a long line of Methodists as far back as her great-grandfather who was a Local Preacher in Jamaica, has served as a Circuit Superintendent in three connexions: Britain, the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas and the Methodist Church in Ireland (MCI). She is currently Superintendent Minister in Wembley, north London.
In her Conference address Mrs Hicks focused on her theme for the year, “God’s Table: An Invitation for All”, reflecting on the racism and marginalisation she and her family have experienced and how the Church can respond to injustice and division in society today. She recalled the experience of her Great Aunt Lize, who had arrived from Jamaica with her Methodist membership card only to be rejected from her local Methodist Church because she was black. Sonia and her family eventually found a Methodist home at Walworth Methodist Church in South London.
Sonia, who is the first black woman to be elected as President of the Methodist Conference, speaking about her theme, said:
“In a world where people are excluded because of their ethnic background, their sexual orientation, their gender or simply because, like me, they were brought up on a council estate, I believe that we are called to show God’s love for all people. It is a calling that Christian people have always struggled with, but we can and should be better at making God’s love a reality in the British Methodist Church, overcoming the systemic discrimination that exists.”
Sonia’s commitment to oppose all forms of injustice began when she was a member of the Youth Exchange to Zimbabwe. She has since been Convenor of the World Relief and Development Committee for MCI, and has served as a Trustee for both All We Can and Christian Aid Ireland.
Looking to the future, the President said:
“As Christians we are to mirror the grace and the mercy of God. We are to find ways of issuing God’s invitation of acceptance to those we meet on a daily basis. No ifs, no buts.
“I believe that there is a place for all in the presence of God, at God’s Table. But, as we acknowledge that everyone has a place, we also must acknowledge that we will therefore live with the tension of not all thinking the same. We will also have to recognise that living with such tension is never the easy option.”
The Vice-President, Barbara Easton, was also elected and inducted this afternoon. Barbara Easton’s vocation has been the world of education. Before becoming Connexional Director of Education in 2014 she was an RE teacher, inclusion and interfaith specialist and secondary headteacher in the West Midlands. She now leads the Methodist Academies and Schools Trust, committed to shaping our schools as diverse communities of empowerment and transformation in their work at the margins of the church. Barbara is also a Local Preacher and has regularly volunteered at 3Generate and Greenbelt.
In her speech to the Conference, the Vice-President spoke of her rootedness in Methodism that began as a baby when she was adopted by a Methodist family. Speaking about how the Church moves forward ecumenically Barbara said: “I am urging you, my sisters and brothers, to see that we still have something valuable to bring to the Church’s table and to be confident about the colour and texture that we add to make the ecumenical quilt richer. If the Church is called to be a sign to the world, then we are raised up as a sign to the sign.”
The role of President of the Methodist Conference is reserved for presbyters and that of Vice-President for lay people or deacons. During his lifetime John Wesley chaired the Methodist Conference but after his death the Conference determined to elect a President annually.