2016 Finland Conference
The Annual conference of the provisional conference of Finland was held in Suomen Raamattuopisto college in Kauniainen, June 30.–July 3.
Theme of the conference was Life. It comes from Jesus’ statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Naturally this was also third of our three year conference themes. This year theme focused on the roots. What is really important and who we are. We’ve handled these themes from the Wesleyan view, how these themes could deepen our Methodist identity.
Discussions and decisions
Conference was presided by Nordic and Baltic area Bishop Christian Alsted.
This year on our plenary session we had two specific topics that were much discussed. First one was our new vision for our conference. Main thought in the vision was that we don’t have to accept minority identity even we are in minority.
Finnish annual conference is rather small; there’s about 900 members, baptized children included, while there’s over 4 million members in Finnish Lutheran church. In comparison, other Finnish free churches are also small. Only Pentecostal movement and Finnish free church have over 10,000 members.
So, even we are small and have been from the start, we don’t have to settle for it. We can reach for bigger and better. In our new vision we dream that in the next 10 years we will have ten new churches and have multiplied our membership. And we want to see that growth as God’s will, he doesn’t want us to be small and insignificant.
Proposal for vision was much discussed. In the end we didn’t yet accept it but it will be completed with the output from discussions.
Other big topic was a proposal for organizational reformation. Currently we have many councils and committees which have mostly same members. And some of these councils and committees haven’t done anything or aren’t working properly.
Organizational reformation aims to simplify our structure and make work of different areas easier. We also see this as a way to determine different areas and their value and necessity for our church.
We discussed much about proposal and it was decided that church council will form a pilot group to study what is the best way to bring plan into use.
There also was concern of finances since many congregations has had difficulties for paying all salaries.
We also had much spiritual program at the conference. We started with communion at Thursday evening. Our retired elder, the Rev. Tapani Rajamaa gave a sermon and presided over communion.
Friday after we had finished our plenary session, we properly started our weekend celebration. At the evening meeting we had visitor from Russian speaking congregation. Russian speaking congregation is pretty young and it was planted by Estonian Methodists.
The Saturday program started by running. Runner group was guiding elder the Rev. Jori Brander who has run many marathons and started recently run ultramarathons.
At the morning meeting was two important events. Bishop Alsted licensed one new local pastor and asked Wesley’s historical questions from one ordinate.
After lunch there was free time. There was also some workshops: one for prayer and silence; an introduction of soon to be published guidebook of diacony work; and a panel discussion about God’s calling.
There was also activities and program for children during free time as well as other meetings.
After afternoon coffee we had a concert. Finnish kantele artist Ida Elina performed. Elina plays and sings pop and gospel songs and writes them herself also. This was first time in a long time we had something this kind. Usually we may have some visitors speaking but singers not so often.
At the evening meeting we had visitors from our Helsinki congregations English speaking group. Recent years we’ve received some immigrants to our congregations. We have worship services for English and Russian speaking people. Also congregation in Tampere has lots of other activities for immigrants. They have language courses, international cafe and some other things.
At Sunday we had our worship in Methodist church of Kauniainen which is part of Swedish speaking annual conference. In Finland we have two conferences even both are small. Division is based on language and there’s some cooperation between conferences, we even have one common district superintendent.
In worship Bishop Alsted ordinated our latest elder and pastor of our youngest congregation. People attending worship were from both Finnish and Swedish speaking conference so we really had celebration in unity.
Once again our conference was blessed. We’re seeing renewal in our congregations, there’s new people coming to annual conferences, and we’re optimistic for future.
--The Rev. Veli Loponen, Turku United Methodist Church. Editor in Rauhan Sanomia – Nya Budbäraren, Finnish and Finnish Swedish speaking United Methodists’ joint magazine.