So many people have kept faith with Mark and me as we have weathered the vicissitudes of stationing since November. This comes by way of update on our situation and is better news than we have been able to share for a while.
It has been a new experience for me to ask for and receive prayer support. I have been one of those Christians who is more comfortable being the strong one, offering a shoulder to cry on and bearing the burdens of others. I have preached about the necessity of mutuality and interdependence in faith, but have practiced it much less.
The last seven months have begun to challenge that spiritual arrogance. There have been times when my inability to formulate anything approaching a prayer has allowed me to rely on the prayers of others and to feel that support providing the keel to keep me afloat. In the past, being asked about my own situation has felt like an interrogation or a test, when I am expected to have a carefully crafted answer. I am beginning to see the sheer folly of that response.
In the last couple of weeks, the future has begun to emerge. We have now been through three rounds of the Matching Process and two rounds of the Action Group and stationing has not yielded anything to date. I have also been advised that there is currently nothing on the horizon. For that reason, I have now sought the permission of the Stationing Advisory Committee to continue in my current roles in the Mid-Warwickshire Circuit and the Susanna Wesley Foundation until 2022. Should the Stationing Advisory Committee agree, my name will then be withdrawn from the Stationing Process.
I am so profoundly grateful to the Mid-Warks Circuit who have now stepped in and agreed to offer us a manse in Whitnash, near Leamington Spa. I am incredibly humbled by the affirmation I have received from various people of my ministry so far and I’m very excited by the prospect of the next three years.
The clarity offered in the last fortnight has allowed the stress to diminish a bit. Once we have a date for moving, we can do the normal stuff like book a summer holiday! But the relief I feel is also tinged with a deep sadness at what the last seven months has done. It is still hard to find appropriate words to describe what has happened, but I am certain that something has been broken.
For the past ten years or so, bit by bit, I have been working my way back into the Methodist orbit. It hasn’t been straightforward, but the decision to submit a stationing profile this year felt like an important milestone. Now, sadly, it feels more like a brick wall, more than that, I feel that I have been swung round and pushed back towards to the periphery, if not the exit.
I constantly have to check my emotions, to make sure I am not overreacting to a particular set of circumstances. What leads me to feel this is not overreaction is the lack of a cogent explanation about how this happened. There is a profound dissonance between the many elegies we have received about our gifts, competence, and usefulness in ministry and the fact that neither of us have received invitations to serve.
So, whilst I am thankful, excited and inspired by the thought of three more years with wonderful colleagues at Southlands and in Warwickshire, I also find myself experiencing a sense of bereavement, and a breach. Some of those I counted friends have, mainly through their omission, lost my trust and respect, something that will need to be acknowledged and rebuilt in the months to come. All this has strained the connection between the Methodism I love and my sense of vocation but I am amazed by the grace I continue to receive daily that re-affirms and strengthens my faith and vocation. I am also conscious, too, perhaps for the first time, that there might not always be a place within the British Connexion where I can exercise that vocation. That feels like an enormous loss already.
The prayers of so many have sustained and upheld both of us and continue to do so. And I want to reassure those who have supported us that we are still convinced that God is still calling us into ministry and will us provide a place to live out our calling, whatever the obstacles.