A three-year project promoting and celebrating ethnic inclusion across the Methodist Church will leave a lasting legacy when it comes to an end next week, its promoters believe.
The Belonging Together project has sought to affirm values of inclusiveness across the Methodist Connexion through the production of resources and new ways of working, the Church declared this weekend.
It began following a report to the Methodist Conference in 2010 entitled 'Towards An Inclusive Church', which built on the work already done by previous committees and initiatives.
The project has encouraged churches to be intentional about ethnic diversity in leadership and stationing decisions in order to be consistently inclusive. Strategies are being implemented to focus on enabling the contribution, representation, access and participation from people from all backgrounds.
The Wesley Methodist Church in Reading is just one of the local churches that is being transformed by the impact of the project.
They hosted an open Church Council meeting and dared to dream about the kind of church they wanted to be. The Rev David Shaw said the project initiated the momentum for change. From the ideas and prayers shared in that meeting they developed a 12-month plan for change and it is already showing results, particularly in who is involved in the welcome, worship and leadership of the local church.
The Rev Jane Earl, secretary to the Church Council, said: “Belonging Together gave us the tools and the impetus to have conversations in a range of places within church about the skills and background of all of our congregations in the context of our hopes and dreams for the Church for the future.
“We’ve been working on three themes: to develop our worship and music life, to develop our welcome to those who come new to the church and to those who have been with us for some time and to develop and maintain our work with young people,” she added.
The Rev Katei Kirby, Partnership Officer for Belonging Together, said: “The Methodist Church in Britain is one of the most ethnically diverse churches in the UK, and that is something to be celebrated. This three-year project gave the Church the opportunity to see what could happen when people of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to become and belong. As the project closes, the Church now has the responsibility to continue to be intentional and deliberate about ethnic inclusion, so that the rich diversity of the whole people of God is both visible and sustained.”
Meanwhile, the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, commented: “The end of this project should mark the beginning of a more excellent way of being an ethnically inclusive Church, and I invite us all to help make it so.”