DISTRICT VISIT OF THE PRESIDENT OF CONFERENCE, 10-12 OCTOBER 2021
The visit of the President of Conference, Rev. Sonia Hicks, to the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District involved a full programme of events packed into the space of three days.
The President preached at a circuit service hosted by Marlborough Road church in the St Albans and Welwyn Circuit and later in the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit. Here Sonia was delighted to return to the Abbotts Langley church, where she was remembered with great affection having been minister in pastoral charge from 1993 to 1997. Between these circuit services, she readily made time to meet with several supernumeraries and spouses from around the District, speaking about ministerial colleagueship before sharing an afternoon tea hosted by St John’s Methodist Church, Potters Bar.
The Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District was formed in 2006, comprising parts of the then London Northwest and London Northeast Districts. As such, the District is comparatively new, though well established and with a sense of shared identity, despite stretching one hundred miles East-West from Harwich on the Essex coast to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
At the District office, centrally located at Stansted Airport close to the M11 and M25 motorways, key District officers briefed the President about aspects of their work across the three very different counties. As a sign of changing patterns of work and greater use of communications technology, one District officer joined by video conference.
The District enjoys a good relationship with Queenswood School, an independent boarding and day school in Hertfordshire for girls aged 11 to 18. A Methodist foundation and associate member of the Methodist Independent Schools Trust, Queenswood benefits from having Rev. Vindra Maraj-Ogden, stationed as full-time school chaplain. The President’s visit to Queenswood occurred during Black History month, providing a timely opportunity for her to experience some of the ways in which the school is decolonising the teaching of history through intentionally recognising the work of leading black and Asian contributors in the fields of literature, music, art and science. As the centrepiece of her visit, the President was interviewed before the whole school about her experience as a black woman in senior church leadership. Later, Sonia was guest of honour hosted by the principal, Mrs Jo Cameron and the school governors, after which she spoke compellingly on the presidential theme of God’s Open Table in relation to Black History month.
The President’s visit culminated in a conference at High Leigh Conference Centre presenting the Connexional strategy for ‘Justice, Dignity and Solidarity’ to a large audience representing circuit leadership teams from across the District, together with members of the District Policy Committee.
The President delivered the keynote address, while the District Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Deacon Ramona Samuel, and Geoff Bond from the Learning Network also gave presentations.
The visit of Rev. Sonia Hicks to the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District was a great encouragement to all who had the privilege of meeting or hearing her speak, including the many who participated in the livestreamed services. Her energy, enthusiasm, and engagement with people was boundless and infectious. In her preaching and other addresses, she spoke insightfully, compellingly, often movingly and always authoritatively. The wisdom of the Conference in choosing Rev. Sonia Hicks as its President was never more evident than during this district visit. What an honour, privilege and above all blessing it has been.
David M. Chapman
Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District