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Visit To Shetland The Chair's Walk

Chair of the District

Revd. John D. Howard. BSc. MA. MMin

 

 Out & About with the Chair.

The Chair's Walk Around The District

 Pastoral Message from the Chair.

Click above to read.

District News.

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District Pilgrimage 2010
Click here to find out what happened.

What is a District Chair ?

 

 Its now almost five years since I came to the District to be its District Chair, and in the same year ,by co-incidence,  the  Methodist Conference agreed a paper called "What is a District Chair" so - by now I should know - though it still does sometimes feel that it is simply what everyone else sits on !!! 

Whenever I go to the barbers (some would say I should go more often!), and I am asked what work I do, I have great difficulty in explaining - "Well, I'm a church minister." "Oh, where is your church?"- "I don't have one" - they look very confused - "I'm a bit like a Methodist Bishop"... and that really stops the conversation !!! 

It is often said that the Chair is the Connexion's person in the District and the District's person in the Connexion. That is not a bad description - though it has the failing of suggesting that the District and the Connexion are separate from each other - when in reality the nature of Connexion is that it is the sum of the Churches, Circuits and Districts. I spend something like one day a week on connexional business - I chair the Committee on Ethics of Investment, I attend Chairs' meetings, Connexional Leaders' Forum and Stationing Committee. I am also on a number of other committees that serve the wider church. 

Within the District, I do "as it says on the can". I am formally chair of any committees of the District - though in practice many committees do function with their own chair. I am responsible for discipline in the District - though again there are others who, in practice, work with me on that. This also includes "Safeguarding" where quite often there are matters that need decision. Seemingly at odds with this, is that I have - shared with the Circuit Superintendents, a key role in the pastoral support of ministers, and to a lesser extent lay people who are serving the District.

           Stationing of ministers forms one of the largest tasks I have. I believe that this is closely associated with the pastoral role. Since appointments to circuit are usually for a five year period I have now been involved in some way with the appointments of all the ministers in the District, and with the circuit stewards of all the circuits across the District. Stationing happens in the Methodist Church as a result of the working relationship between the leadership of circuits, ministers and the connexional stationing committee which I attend. Assisting me in the District I have a lay stationing representative, (David Kirby from the Stafford Circuit). He shares in most of the conversations, acts as a colleague with whom I can discuss matters in confidence, and deputises for me if, for some reason (in emergency), I can't be at stationing committee. Since the church is very short of ministers, most years we end up with some circuits not being able to find a minister, and in which case I work with circuit leadership teams to ensure that the best arrangements possible are made for the staffing of the circuit. 

Much more difficult to describe is the leadership role I play in the District. The District covers Shropshire, Staffordshire, the Black Country and the Welsh Borders. Across that area I seek to encourage, inspire and lead. This means that I often attend special services - church openings, circuit services as well as ecumenical and civic occasions. I preach in different circuits every week - there are about 250 churches in the District and so it does take quite a time to get round all the churches! I share in meetings and work closely with circuit superintendents. 

There are then opportunities to develop particular pieces of work. I have played a lead role in the developing of the District relationship with Rwanda - KOMERA. I have led a youth residential for a week each February for young people across the District - the Ski Trip, I have encouraged the development of "Fresh Expressions of Church" and new ways of being church in differing places.  

I do enjoy most of the work - I see much that is best in the church and much that is worst. Sometimes it does seem that I am simply trying to minimise the harm done by people in the church who are failing to live out their calling to be followers of Christ - neglecting important things for the church - breaking rules - but these times are eclipsed by the many times that I see the church being the kind of presence in communities that bring the best out of people. Individuals living wonderful caring lives, communities working for the good of all, especially the frailest and poorest. 

I have recently been invited to stay on in the District for a further five years,
so perhaps by the time I finish that time I will be better able to answer the question
"What is a District Chair?" 

John Howard


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