Transforming Lives

10 May 2023

Finding my purpose and place as CEO of the Methodist Independent Schools Trust (MIST)
By Judith Fenn

judith-fenn-ceo-mistI took up post at MIST in February 2023 and nearly 3 months later the opportunity to write this blog has given me a chance to reflect on my journey so far.

First and foremost, I am loving the role: in schools; about schools; for schools. Methodist education puts the faith, vision and values of John Wesley at the forefront of all that is done. These shine through in the schools I have visited, and are evident in the active chaplaincy, the net zero initiatives, the inclusion and diversity and everywhere, the kindness. I am a great believer in noting the small things: a Year 5 tour guide who stopped to ask a younger pupil if he was OK when he tripped and lost a shoe; the Year 6 who carefully turned off lights in empty classrooms; the Year 13s whose love for their school and its values shone through as they became nostalgic for their Year 7 cloakroom pegs and lockers even as they contemplate a move to higher education. Memories, shaping and transforming lives.

Then, two months into role, the “Transforming Lives” Methodist Education International Conference took place in London, Bristol/Bath and Cambridge (25 April – 1 May). This brought together over 260 Methodist educators from every continent on the globe (well, not Antarctica…maybe next time). These inspirational colleagues ran schools and theological colleges and universities. They experienced very different challenges, and they work in wildly varied contexts, but as we talked and listened to one another, common themes emerged: a strong social justice agenda; a focus on sustainability and spirituality; and a strong tie back to the 18th Century early Methodist movement. They were passionate about their fields, eager to make a difference and, of course, doing all they possibly could do to promote our shared values and vision. 

This tie was brought home even more strongly through our worship at John Wesley’s New Room in Bristol and our celebration of the 275th anniversary of Kingswood School that he founded in 1748. The morning devotions of the African and Asian delegations set the faith-based scene for a programme that challenged us to do all that we can. At times, even dance.

The next few months will see me visiting more schools, not just in MIST but also in MAST (Methodist Academies and Schools Trust) as we work ever closer, keeping in mind that we are stronger together. We are thriving as we grow. I want to make links with our higher education colleges and universities and because of my background as a teacher, then also working with new teachers, I’m keen to support the training and development of our staff in schools. Spirituality and Chaplaincy in our schools are other areas of focus, as is sustainability and net zero. While a lot has already been achieved, there remains much to do!

A key part of my role is helping to fulfil the 2021 Transforming Lives agenda, the Methodist Church’s education strategy for our schools (Transforming Lives - Methodist Schools). In this I support and feed into the Methodist Schools Committee, chaired by Revd Dr Roger Walton, where all of the Methodist schools and Trusts are represented. It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop links and partnerships, to listen and to learn as I begin to make links with schools beyond MIST.

An outcome of the recent Conference has been the chance to play a formal part in the work of the International Association of Methodist Schools Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU) who co-hosted it alongside the UK schools, colleges and universities. Global partnerships, networks and friendships rooted in Wesley’s educational vision from nearly 300 years ago makes the history teacher within me very happy indeed.

So, 80 days in, what have I seen? I’ve seen warm welcomes, acts of kindness, courageous conversations and deeply held values. Methodist schools are centres of community and faith. They are vibrant and colourful. Watch the Conference Song video if you have a chance and be uplifted by the voices of our children in our schools across the world (

It is said that Methodism was born in song, imagine now what transformation was achieved at the Conference - for all, for all!