I feel profoundly sad at the minute. As someone who lives with depression, sadness is no stranger, but this is the kind of sadness that is sparked by grief and loss. Yet, no-one has died. For those of you who have followed our story over the past few months, you will have shared some of the deep hurt and frustration we have felt as we have navigated our way through the Methodist Church’s stationing system. Now, as we come to the final few weeks in the manse we currently live in, it is beginning to dawn on me that something ‘big’ is ending whilst something new is not beginning.
For me, I continue to do the work that I have been doing for the past two years, only from a new manse generously provided by the South Warwickshire Circuit. It has been a real joy to get to know people in the Mid-Warks Circuit and new colleagues in friends who will join us when the South Warks Circuit begins life in September. I am genuinely excited to be able to continue the work I have started, but I am very aware, too, that the next few years will be a ‘holding pattern’, a transitional arrangement created when the system let us down. Rather than provide answers, it simply delays the asking of the questions.
The profound sense of loss comes from the realisation that my relationship with the British Methodist Church is not as strong as I thought it was. A huge part of my identity is invested in the Methodist Church and I look back on twenty years of service as a real privilege. I had thought that I was at the halfway point and hoped that the next twenty plus years would enable me to put to use whatever wisdom, skill and insight I had gleaned from two decades of ministry in rich and varied contexts. Instead, this experience has forced me to question my place in the Methodist Church and I have felt it like a punch in the gut.
So, as the prospect of packing up one manse to move to another looms, it feels like I am being asked to carry more than a few possessions. The physical journey will only be a few miles down the road, but spiritually it feels like another country. Like those who are forced out of their homes to seek refuge and safety across a border or a sea, I am left wondering how I carry ‘home’ within me. What trinkets, experiences, relationships will I be able to carry that will help me hold onto my identity whilst in exile? And perhaps more importantly, what do I now need to leave behind?
I have wasted too much of my life trying to control the future and the urge to do so again is still strong. But the visions will not come. Instead I think the Spirit is asking me just to hold on, to engage with the loss a bit longer, and rely on her for whatever comes after. I know that will be hard for a lot of Methodist friends who will want reassurance that everything is better now, the future is sorted, the pain is passed. No doubt, for an easy life, I will say that it is. But there will be some who will not ask for such responses because they too have felt the same loss and may still live in an unchosen exile, dis-connected against their will. I give thanks daily for sisters, brothers and siblings like that, for their witness has been my strength through all of this.
If you pray for me, don’t wish away the sadness; I don’t need to be fixed. Pray instead for insight and wisdom and discernment, the tools I need to create a place within that will bear ‘home’.