‘More lay ministers to be used in the future’ as numbers fall

The Portadown Methodist Circuit catering team were kept busy at the Irish Conference, providing morning coffee and afternoon tea for the delegates, as well as being responsible for the supper following the installation and ordination services.
The Portadown Methodist Circuit catering team were kept busy at the Irish Conference, providing morning coffee and afternoon tea for the delegates, as well as being responsible for the supper following the installation and ordination services.

Lay ministers could be used more in the future, due to a lack of people training for the ministry, delegates at the Methodist Conference in Portadown were told.

The week-long conference was held at Thomas Street Methodist Church, the first time since 2005 that it had been held in the town.

Secretary of conference, the Rev Dr John Stephens said he had analysed the church statistics and noted that over the next 10 years 42 ministers would be retiring. That equates to five per year which would mean six to seven ministers would be required per year for the circuit,

But, he added, that with a slow-down in those offering for ministerial training this could result in significant restructuring and, as the chief financial Officer indicated, significant reduction of budgets, all of which could lead to a greater use of a suitably trained lay ministry.

Among the topics brought by the council on social responsibility was that of domestic violence. The conference was addressed by Rosemary Magill MBE, a member of Antrim Methodist Church, who is involved in reaching out to women who are victims of domestic violence.

She said one in four women suffers from domestic violence and that age, ethnicity or disability did not prevent it.

She encouraged churches to become safe places where information of where help was available could be displayed.

Those attending were welcome by both Rev Kenneth Robinson, District Superintendent of the Portadown District, and Mrs Myrtle Wright, circuit steward.

On the opening night the Rev Bill Mullally was Installed as president for 2016-17. He succeeds the Rev Brian Anderson. The new president took as his theme ‘Renewing our minds’ based on Romans Chapter 12.

Bible studies were conducted by the Rev David Bruce, a Presbyterian minister based at Church House. In his first study based around Phil.2:1-11 he challenged delegates to set aside those things that get in the way of Christian witness.

He also cautioned us not to imagine that God’s grace is restricted to “our tribe”. His second study based on 2 Cor.5:15ff was about reconciliation.

He told of the time his best friend has been killed by terrorists. It affected him so much that he found it hard to think about “forgiveness”. His theological professor reminded him that he would never have any kind of ministry until he realised that Christ loved his friends killers enough to die for them.

On Sunday night the ordination service for five ordinands was held in St Mark’s Parish Church and those ordained included Rowan Zeelie (Armagh). The preacher was British president the Rev Steve Wild.