Melanie Campbell, our Synod Clerk, and I attended this conference organised by JPIT (Joint Public Issues Team) on Saturday 21st February. You will note from Melanie’s report that Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the keynote speaker and he set the scene for the day. His speech showed that he is passionate about justice for all and also conveyed that he has tremendous hope that society can be changed for the better as Christians become involved more in Politics. He recognised, too, that we need to challenge the cynicism that many have when it comes to Politics, pointing out that we need to play our part and that working for a better future cannot be left to the Politicians alone. He asked what Britain could look like in ten years’ time if the Church played its part. What would our moral and ethical position be in the world?
Attendees had time for two workshops each in the course of the day. They covered a variety of topics related to the theme. My first workshop was led by Andy Reed OBE, former MP for Loughborough and currently Chair of Christians in Parliament. He spoke about building relationships with your MP. His advice was to host an event to which s/he could be invited and ensure that the media know about it. Where lobbying is concerned he felt it was better that several people should write individual letters rather than to have multiple signatures on one. He was keen that hustings should be set up in the run up to the general election but advised that a good, strong chair would be essential. And in order to keep up with what your MP’s involvement then the use of Twitter was recommended along with the website www.theyworkforyou.com typing in your MP’s name.
In connection with the use of social media my second workshop, led by Anna Drew, who is the lead media officer in the Methodist Connexional Team, advocated the use of Facebook for high-lighting public issues. Where traditional media is concerned she pointed out that journalists are after a good story backed up by photographs if appropriate. She gave tips on how to avoid being mis-quoted, mainly by leaving a paper trail rather than only through an interview and to ask for questions in advance if involved in an interview. All in all she was positive about journalist reminding us that the vast majority are decent and human.
The day finished with a bible study presented by Revd Ruth Gee, a former President of Methodist Conference; she majored upon the verse from Micah, chapter 6 and verse 8: ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ So as we set off on our homeward journeys we were left with the question of how we, as Christians, can do that within our land as we use our votes and encourage others to use theirs not only for ourselves but for the common good.