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Connexion (Re-Blog)


The online 2021 Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland finished on  Sunday with a livestreamed service from the Agapé Centre on our circuit, which has been the base of operations for the week. As part of the Faith and Order business on Saturday, however, Dr. Paul Chilcote continued the reflections he began on Thursday, when he focused on the transformative power of grace,  this time reminding us that the Wesley's saw conferencing together as a means of grace. It is the physical (or this year virtual) manifestation of the connexionalism, which as a former lecturer in Edgehill, Jim McCormick always insisted, should be seen as more than a form of ecclesiology, but rather a thorough-going spirituality. Our connexionalism is, as Dr. Chilcote suggests a divine gift, but it is sadly at times a neglected one. The Methodist Church of Ireland can often be, as I have often said, as fundamentally congregationalist and individualistic as many other contemporary traditions, and no amount of governance document amendments (which took up a significant amount of connexional and conference time, energy and imagination over the past few years) will change that in and of themselves. Yet this connexional mindset or spirituality
 is perhaps the single most important charism God offers to the church and wider world through us. We are living in an increasingly fractured world, whatever advantages the information technology age has brought us, and that is especially so in our dysfunctional little political fiefdom. If we as a church who talks about our connectedness don't live it out, owning our diversity within our unity; talking honestly about areas where we radically differ without doubting or disparaging each other's faith - then we cannot mock or lecture our political representatives on how they manage things in the house on the hill.
I found it particularly interesting that we were looking at this issue this year in the context of a virtual conference... which a couple of people actually said to me was the best for a number of years. Yet the question always remains whether technology such as that which we have been forced into using more over the past 15 months facilitates genuine connections being made or simply offers a facsimiles of engagement... allowing us to remain safely socially distanced - but not aways in a good way. 
With those thoughts in mind I thought that it might be an appropriate time to reblog the following piece, that I wrote last September. In my former blog post I noted the less than subtle allusions to one of John Donne's most famous poems... But I omitted the cod-Latin hat-tip to E.M. Forster's epigraph from "Howards End" (and not my favourite quiz show)... I doubt that Forster would have approved of the internet as a means of connecting...

Connexion. 
An archaic spelling.
An antiquated notion
Where the individual is all? 
Each person their own prince. 
Each congregation their own principality. 
Reformed we proclaim to the glory of God alone, 
Faith alone, grace alone, scripture alone and Christ alone, 
But above all these we have added ourselves alone. 
The hand does not really seem to care one jot
Whether the foot is part of their body. 
For whom are the bells tolling?
For each one is an island 
Slowly eroding. 
Sola connexio.

Selah

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