23 December 2020
God is with us and that is the ground of our hope
In the last of our series of leadership blogs from across the Church, the Secretary of the Conference, the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, reflects on the work of the Connexional team since March
I remember well the events of 19 March, the day that we took the decision at Methodist Church House to ask everyone to work from home until further notice. There were only a few of us in Methodist Church House by 5.30 that evening; as I left, my parting words were ‘See you on the other side.’ I don’t think any of us imagined that nine months later we wouldn’t have reached ‘the other side’ but I also don’t think we realized how soon or how often (thanks to online conferencing platforms) we’d be seeing each other.
I am immensely proud of the way that the Connexional Team has responded to the crisis. It saw 154 members of staff learn very quickly how to work without access to the office and all that entailed. As always, I have worked closely with my colleagues in the Senior Management Group to navigate our way through the highs and lows of the challenges, and the opportunities faced over the last few months. The HR team have been hugely supportive, helping us through the maze that is home working. They have produced many online resources for guidance, training for staff and support for managers looking after teams, as well as launching and promoting programmes to encourage staff to look after themselves, physically as well as mentally through wellbeing seminars and resources.
The steep learning curve that the Team began to scale in March continues. There have been gains, not least the reminder that many of the Team did not work in Methodist Church House anyway and as we have moved events (eg, the weekly lunchtime prayer or a department cake stop) online, they have been more able to join. A great deal of the Team’s energy has gone into answering queries from churches and circuits about how to cope and to respond to the restrictions and we can be thankful for the opportunities to build links and to develop the sense of the Team sharing the difficulty and truly being here for the Connexion that that has engendered.
However, we are also aware of the cost: it is harder to work without the facilities we take for granted in MCH; we’ve not been able to check things out with each other swiftly; I think we have all found Zoom and Teams meetings tiring and wonder how it is that even without travel the days can be so full. Not yet having reached the other side adds to the pressure.
‘How long, O Lord?’ asked the Psalmist and we share the cry. We want to know when the new reality might start and we want to know what our family, church, work lives will be like when we are finally free from all the COVID-19 restrictions. Nobody has the answer to those questions. What we have is the assurance that God is with us and that is the ground of our hope. For the Connexional Team, the hope cannot be that we will go back to life before 19 March; our hope is in God who will be with us however long we have to operate under these conditions and who holds the future whatever that may be, for we, the Team and the Church we serve, are God’s people.
The other blogs in this series: