Long time no blog. It’s three and a half weeks since we moved and finally we’ve nearly unpacked everything. A combination of moving with two small children plus having to move rather closer to the date I was beginning ministry here have had their effect. Just got to set up the hi-fi now, I think.
It’s a much smaller house. We knew that, of course. We’d been Mr and Mrs eBay for several months prior to the move. Some much-loved old possessions had to go. In my case I said goodbye to over a thousand vinyl LPs. Some I sold, others had to go to the dump.
But the house has been beautifully decorated and refurbished. A working party from one of my churches removed all the prickly plants from the garden to make it safe for our children. Some basic food and drink was here for us to see us through our first few days. They even bought some toys to amuse the kids while the removal men did their work.
We’ve also found them to be uncommonly principled and generous in what they pay for expenses, too. The circuit stewards (don’t worry if you’re not a Methodist, it’s simply the senior ‘lay’ office in a Methodist circuit) had told us repeatedly that they look after their ministers.
We’ve also found it to be a lovely area for bringing up the children. The area where our manse was situated in the last appointment was pretty grim. In the Old Testament ‘salvation’ can mean being brought into a spacious place: the house here may not be spacious, but the area has that feel. We feel peaceful about our children being here.
So if I think of the move as also being a spiritual journey what have I learned so far from it? A number of things:
I’ve learned to do without some cherished possessions. However I shouldn’t sound too virtuously ascetic there, because we were able to buy a new digital SLR camera, so I can revive an old hobby. I had had to sell my old film SLR gear.
Then there is the love we have received. It’s been amazing. The mantra we kept hearing, “We look after our ministers”, had been hard to believe before we came, mainly due to previous bad experiences, where much was trumpeted and little delivered. I have to learn not to let old scars damage the way I treat new people. I thought I was better at that than I obviously am.
Not that I am expecting a picnic here. I am clearly in a different spiritual tradition to at least two of the three churches I am serving, but we’ll see how it goes. We firmly believed God had led us to accept this appointment, and we wait to see some of the reasons why he brought us here. Watch this space.
Regular blogging is quite difficult at present, as we get ready for our move next month. Last night I had my big circuit farewell service. Some had questioned my choice of venue, one of the ecumenical churches I have served. Why not the main church I had served, a small ordinary Methodist church? I didn’t mean to sound arrogant, but I thought that after eight years here and building up all sorts of networks there might be a lot of people who wanted to say goodbye. I thought we needed a larger venue.
I was right: I arrived twenty minutes before the service was due to start and I couldn’t get in the large car park. The whole service went brilliantly well. My sermon, which could have caused a few ruffled feathers, had an amazing response. I would estimate that about a quarter of the congregation came forward at the end to be anointed with oil.
There was a bunfight afterwards, except I never made it to the church hall even to get a cup of tea, due to the number of people wanting to speak to me. By the time I arrived home, around 9:15 pm, I was emotionally shattered. I felt the same when I woke up this morning: legs like jelly, plus a headache. (And no, it was the usual non-alcoholic Methodist communion wine.)
Some of these emotions made a bit more sense when I read the following wonderful words this morning from Nancy Beach’s beautiful book An Hour On Sunday:
‘Take a moment to mentally scroll through names and faces of people in your church. Think of someone who came to faith through your community. Now call to mind a few more people – someone who discovered spiritual gifts, someone else who found healing for family relationships, another who learned how to manage money, care for her body, or worship his Creator in new ways. Can you think of specific names? Those people, those eternal souls, are the fruit of your labor. And people are what matter most to God …
‘Every ministry is a scrapbook of faces, with new pages added every year. As we turn the pages of the scrapbook and look at each person’s eyes, we’re reminded of his or her story, of the impact of our church on that individual’s one and only life. Life change. There’s nothing more rewarding.’ (pp 254, 255)
So after eight years when I had really wondered whether what I had done here had been worth anything, when I had become painfully aware of my own failings (either true failings or those imposed by the unrealistic expectations of others) I think I’ve finally come to see that the jelly in my legs and the headache are about a realisation that I actually do have a ministry scrapbook I can take away from this place.
| You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God’s grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
Well that result at least is a relief for a Methodist minister!