In a normal year, the president would be travelling the country, and the world, spending time with Methodist and community groups, building relationships and sharing life. Of course in these Covid-times that hasn’t, physically, been possible, and, being clearly someone who enjoys, and is good at, meeting people and getting to know them, he’s really sad about that. But when we spoke for Travellers’ Tales, he was fairly chipper about his, so far, 10 months in office, explaining that, actually, he felt that in some ways he’s been able to spend some more concentrated times with people digitally – less casual, with surprising, and enriching, opportunities to go deeper.
He told me about a childhood growing up on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales, how he only started going to church because the local Methodist minister asked him, as a musical teenager, to play the piano for hymns at the Sunday service, much to his parents’ dismay….but how he found himself gathered in by an amazing inclusive welcome from the small congregation – the start of his faith journey.
We talked about his time, much later, in Cumbria, ministering to communities devastated by repeated flooding in 2009 and 2015, and traumatised by a horrific mass shooting in 2010. And he told me about his passion for rural ministry (perhaps borne of his own Dales childhood), and for ecumenism – for people across the denominations to find common ground and work together, if differently, for God’s kingdom.
We’re delighted that we’ve been able to partner with the London District of the Methodist Church for this series – so it was especially good to spend some time with Richard, this year’s Methodist President, for Travellers’ Tales.