27 July 2020

The benefits of online visits

By the Revd Richard Teal

A few months ago, most of us had not heard of Zoom, screen sharing, moving into rooms, etc until COVID 19 hit us and now many of us spend enormous amounts of time meeting in these ways. You can imagine therefore how apprehensive I felt when my first district visit as President of the Conference was not only to the Cymru district (Welsh speaking district) but also that it was going to be a virtual visit, the first ever I believe. Would the technology work? Would the broadband be reliable in such a scattered rural area? Would all the participants be familiar with the workings of Zoom? Would the screen-share work on the PowerPoint?

I need not have been concerned at all. The Cymru district provided a varied programme and the technology was faultless. I met the district executive, led a workshop on Leadership and another about rural mission, met with some of the leading people in the areas of agriculture and rural issues in Wales and had a farewell meeting to reflect on the visit.

Was this way of visiting a district worthwhile? Before it I could not see how it could be, but how wrong I was. There were many positives:

  1. The visit had no travel costs involved for me or any of the participants.
  2. Environmentally there were no travelled miles for anyone.
  3. The meetings were small where everyone could be seen on screen and all had a voice which was heard.
  4. A relationship built up quickly between the President and the participants which I believe became transformative. This could not have happened in larger groups.
  5. I felt I knew the district, its people, concerns and hopes in an intimate way which far outweighed an actual physical visit.
  6. I was able to spend quality time with people where conversations were focussed and productive. People felt safe to share what was on their hearts.

The Cymru Methodist District are to be commended on their imaginative arrangements for the first virtual visit for a President of the Conference. Perhaps Cymru can be used as a model for the future?

As we begin to move from disorientation to reorientation  maybe the Cymru Methodist District can offer to us a new way of learning how to engage well with people?

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