In an address on Saturday to the Conference outlining the theme for her Presidential year, ‘So what’s the story…?’, the Revd Dr Barbara Glasson used stories from her own life and ministry to reveal how we can find a “fragile strength” and from being present in difficult places we can, “surprise ourselves once again with the way of Jesus”.
She said: “We are called to tell stories, to listen to stories and to wrestle with stories, to search for truth not fake news, to challenge the malicious stories we tell about each other and to go on believing that as people of creation, exodus, crucifixion, wilderness wandering and even in exile we can still claim the hope of resurrection and the gracious promise of life in all its fullness.”
Dr Glasson’s ministry has been with the Bread Church in Liverpool, Touchstone, a Methodist interfaith project in Bradford, and with people who have experienced abuse following the Past Cases Review. She arrived at the Conference, being held this year in Birmingham, on foot having walked 133 miles from Huddersfield, stopping frequently en route to share and listen to the stories of communities along the way.
On a trip to China in 2017, Dr Glasson heard of the story of nineteenth century Cornish missionary, Samuel Pollard, brought up to date in a country with the fastest growing Christian population on earth. On another journey to Myanmar she encountered Shanti Kana, or safe space, a project run by All We Can for women, so that they can feel safe and cool and rest, away from the cramped, claustrophobic and often violent shacks of the nearby refugee camp.
The people of these stories she said, “live the Jesus story and so can we, we who are Methodist and Methodish, we who are marinaded in faith or just dipping a tentative toe, Conference buffs and Conference rookies, big wigs and small fry, gay or straight or trans or undefined, broken, diffident or downright scared, all of us, each of us is called to this simple, costly way, living out our stories within the eternal, challenging, costly, glorious stories of God – because nothing in all creation can separate us from it.”
In her address Dr Glasson called for more than just telling of stories but to push for change and to listen: “We will need to be people of reconciliation and peace in an increasingly angry and divided Britain. We will need to commit ourselves to not only making the church inclusive, but allowing those who we might think ‘on the edge’ to challenge and transform us. We need to listen in three dimensions to what is told and what lies in the dark spaces between the words.”
To watch a video and read the full text of Dr Glasson delivering her address click here