New Methodist President speaks of 'The Listening God'

'There are none so deaf, as those that don't want tohear'

The Revd Will Morrey used his address as the new President ofthe Methodist Conference to lay out his theme of "the challenge oflistening." Will began his year of office with a speech that calledon the Church to "run to the unexpected places where the ListeningGod is gathering people."

Will defined true listening as discovering meaning in and givingvalue to whatever or whoever is being listened to. After losing hishearing at the age of 19, Will found that in his deepest despair:"a voice was saying calmly 'I am still here, you know'. In a senseI had hit the bottom of the pit, and found that God was even there.My crying out was my prayer, and in the stillness I sensed thetruth of the words attributed to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:27) 'beneathare the everlasting arms'. Paradoxically, I found that losinghearing led to a deep conviction in the Listening God, whose veryact of listening transfigures life."

As he visits Methodist churches and districts around GreatBritain during his year as President, Will hopes that: "people willgive me more time to listen than to speak. Listening requires timeand attention; some voices are hidden like birdsong among citytraffic.

"Listening challenges the hearer, for we may be told what wewould prefer not to hear. Any government that is deaf to the criesof those most in need or, worse, seeks to silence voices of dissentsows the wind and reaps the whirlwind. It isn't difficult to pointto such behaviour in our world, and finding the ways toprophetically stand in solidarity with the unheard and voiceless isa Christian duty."

Will's speech was full of images and motifs. He said: "The imageof running to gather in the unexpected places where the ListeningGod is gathering people means that, to put it a littleprovocatively, the world will save the church. To put it in a morerounded way, God at work in the world may renew the church."

In his speech, Will said he aims to build on the themes laid outby his recent predecessors. Ex-President Dr Neil Richardson calledfor a God-centred church, while Past President Inderjit Bhogaldescribed God spreading out a table for all. Will agreed that theChurch needed to respond to these messages, and not just seek tomeet the needs of those who are already Methodists.

Will has worked for the last 17 years in Wales, and waspresented with a cassock, scarf and stole by the South WalesDistrict. He thanked the District for the gifts, which he describedas "practical expressions of their love and care."