Thursday, 24 September 2015

Letting go

In 1 week's time, I will be unemployed. No, I won't sign on, for a variety of reasons, though it may be a useful bit of research into how those on benefits are treated. Over the course of probation, I've been setting aside a bit every week, so there's something to keep Spot and I going until I an 'in charge.' And I know we are very fortunate to be in this position.

Next month, I'll be preaching as sole nominee for a charge. After the service, the congregation will vote as th whether or not they want to call me as their minister. So, it's not a done deal quite yet. It does feel like the 'right' place, even though I go through waves of 'what have I done' and excitement. The excitement waves are longer and higher than the doubts, you'll be pleased to know!

But, at the moment I'm doing lasts. Last visits to people I've offered regular pastoral care too over the last 15 months; last meetings; last coffee mornings; last service (where I'm wondering if it was a good idea agreeing to take the service - done now, though!). Etc, etc.

Then, there's trying to visit people who have supported me, in many ways, through this placement, but who won't be there on Sunday to wish me well (I could, at this stage, have a bit of a rant in saying if they wanted to, they could come to me...but I won't too much!).

Then, there's trying to convince people I will not be around after 30 September. While I won't have anything church-wise to do, they need to let me go and know I am not part of Airside anymore. Or, maybe it's me who needs to go. I have a (possibly very bad) habit of going, preferring clean breaks to long, lingering goodbyes. Sooner or later, I will be (God willing - the congregation I am preaching as sole nominee for may still vote against me) over 150 miles away.

Yes, I know some will come to my ordination, and it will be lovely to have them there with me. 150 miles, I do think, is a great filter, as nosey people won't make that sort of journey just for the nebbiness factor.

It's hard this, harder than I thought it would be. But, as Spot said last night, I am a big softie, who doesn't like people knowing that I care. I need the clean break so I can let go.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


I am getting somewhat neglectful of this blog, aren't I? A combination of time and inclination. It's not that there's nothing happening, it's what/when to post on and, increasingly, I am using other platforms to post (not so anonymously on those).

Since I last posted (goodness, over 2 months ago), working out where I may serve has been an 'interesting' time. I'm not entirely sure when I decided it, but I realised with all the other things I thought about call, it occurred to me that part of it was a congregation had to 'make the first move,' on some way. That could be by email, phone or in writing, but they had to be one of the churches who bothered to get in touch - who bothered to call me. I know that isn't the norm, but I never said I was normal, did I?

The scary thing is, of the almost 180 charges currently advertised, I think I've heard from around 30. Yes, I accept there's been summer holidays and some charges may not want a probationer, but when I've heard tales of those who've recently gone before me getting 70+ profiles through their inboxes/letterboxes in the first few days of being granted permission to look for their 'own' charge, it seems not very many.

But, so far, I have had 3 Nom Coms come to hear me. Which is really encouraging. I also preached away from Airside, so another Nom Com could hear me.

I have also had 2 interviews. Both were good congregations, with plenty scope for my gifts, but 1 felt 'right.' It's hard to fully explain why, but I really do think the one which felt more 'right' certainly seems to be the place God is calling me to minister. The exciting thing is, they seem to think so too.

So, it may have not been quick, though a couple of months isn't really that long. I do think the various visits to Airside Nom Coms have made, and which I have made, have helped prepare me for when I preach as sole nominee.

It's exciting, a but scary and really quite wonderful too. Much like love, this call can't be fully explained, but I know it's there.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The assumptions people make

Over the last couple of weeks, it has been my privilege to be at the ordination of a couple of friends as priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Though merely a member of the congregation, on both occasions, I was there to offer my support in events which marked important stepping stones in their journeys of faith and calling.

Being a service in the SEC, there was communion. As I watched those gathered going up to receive the elements, virtually everyone kneeled. I struggle to kneel, though I don't look like someone who would. Though I know I don't have to kneel, I did not want to look disrespectful, so made the decision I wouldn't go to receive communion.

Which is where others, who don't realise I am attempting to be respectful, may draw the wrong conclusions, and I suppose I have to live with that, keeping a focus on thinking I was trying to do the right thing. I wonder if they maybe thought it wasn't communion or I was being disrespectful? Oh, the maze of trying to be sensitive to others, while realising there's sometimes I won't win, whatever I do. These were among those times.

Among those gathered were some who obviously couldn't go up the the altar to receive communion - those in wheelchairs, with walking frames etc. The stewards asked each one of those if they would like communion brought to them. While I am delighted this happened, it was interesting this offer was only made to those with outward signs of infirmary. Which makes me wonder, how many others did not look as though they would struggle to go up to the altar to receive communion, but would struggle and, due to conclusions made, were not asked if they wished communion brought to them.

Just for the record, I was more interested in the judgement calls which were made by the stewards, rather than anything else. I suppose I am concerned there are those who feel they aren't allowed to go up to receive communion (and may need gentle encouragement) or have a unseen reason that going up to receive communion at the altar is difficult.

I know we all make assumptions about things, this has been a learning process for me, to consider how we make assumptions in the church, and how to allow all to worship, without being pushy or patronising.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The last year

I can hardly believe this time last year, I was about to begin a journey which would take me to visit Airside's twinned congregation in Malawi. It was an exciting opportunity and real privilege, which I know has lived with me since.

It was while in Malawi I began probation. I'm glad I was able to take the risk of going there - not only to an unknown place, but with an unknown group of people (and that was just those from Airside. Maybe I hadn't really thought about the fact if things hadn't gone well (with people being tired and not in their 'own' places, we can all be a little more grumpy than normal), especially as I was sharing a room with The Boss, probation may have been pretty awkward, to say the least!

But it was a great start and it's been a great year. Yes, there have been, especially in the early few weeks, a sense of me wondering 'should I really be here?' and me (stupidly and unfairly) comparing myself to The Boss. Once I got my head round I am who I am (oh, maybe I should rephrase that...) and I can only be the person God has called me, and to accept I am a minister, things started to fit into place. Consequently, I have become the minister I am now. And it's great.

I know I wouldn't be here without the support of many people. Spot, obviously; those who left positive and honest comments here over the years, especially during my struggles of enquiry - it was good to not have that sense of isolation I know some have during that; various supervisors and congregations. The biggest help this year has been The Boss, though she'll not take nearly as much credit for it as she should.

So here I am, 1 year on since the beginning of a journey at Airside. I can honestly say I have loved 99% of it and the other 1% was still good. God has certainly blessed me this year,

Which lead to a very positive final review the other day. The panel were broadly the same as those I met with at the half way point, so not an unknown quantity. I'm not sure how long these interviews are supposed to take - most people I've spoken to say 25 minutes or so. Then the probationer is invited to go outside, while the panel make their decision. I'm sure my interview only lasted 15 minutes maximum. The panel felt my and The Boss' reports were excellent (and I think they mean in terms of who I am as well as content). They asked a couple of questions, which were very specific to a couple of things I've been involved with and that was about it.

They didn't deliberate for long, a minute at most, and invited me back in to the good news that they are delighted with where I am and I may now begin the process of applying for my 'own' charge.

At the time, I was simply relieved. Not euphoric, not elated, just relieved that what I've done this year has been acknowledged and I was affirmed in my God given calling. It's only beginning to sink in.

Now, where is calling me to be their minister? Watch this space.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The final probationers' conference

Last week, I was at my final probationers' conference. Before going, I was a little apprehensive, as conferences 2 and 3 had not been as useful as we all had hoped, though I do wonder if that brought us together as a group! On the other hand, I was looking forward to catching up with my peers.

It was a good week, despite our reservations. On paper, some of the topics seemed very dry - "The Vacancy Procedure," "Living in a manse," "Moderating a Kirk Session," to name a few. But, due to the quality of those leading the sessions, they turned out to be very useful indeed. In the former of those sessions (along with "The first year in ministry) we were asked what our hopes and fears were. That was really helpful, as we were all coming from the same place, so what I was feeling wasn't unique (*wipes brow in relief*).

It did seem a little odd the probationer Deacons not joining us for the first year in ministry session. Yes, I know there's a difference between being the minister 'in charge' and the role of a deacon, but in 1 year time we will all be well into our first year of ministering.

One of the best sessions was around Moderation Kirk Sessions. The person leading this is an exceptionally experienced minister, with great insight and wisdom, which I know I will tuck away for future use. As part of the session, we had a mock Kirk Session and yours truly was 'The Minister.' That was very useful, and I actually was 'pleased' to have had the chance to do that. As a group, we had become comfortable with one another, so I knew it was a supportive vibe in the room, even though everyone had their 'roles' with the session. It gave the chance to put into practise some of what we'd been taught. I suspect my peers also saw me in a different light, as I 'filled' the role as minister.

Of the week, the only session I struggled with was the Preaching Difficult Texts session. It was run in a very proscriptive way by the session leader, which came after a day looking at collaborative ministry. I don't think the irony was lost on anyone. And, as we approach the end of probation, it is odd to give us this at this stage - one in a parish, we can completely avoid them if we wish! Maybe this would fit better in the first probation conference - then the OLMs could also benefit from it.

Which does make me think there's a lot the OLMs miss out on. They do not get told about their roles as trustees, which they will be as a member of a Kirk Session; they do not get the sessions on Mission, moderating Kirk Sessions or chaplaincy, to name 3, though depending on their deployment/situation, they maybe well be involved in this.

Overall, what I've taken away from these conferences has been connecting with my peers, getting support from them, getting to know them. And, we've all seen one another grow. At the end of conference, 1 of my peers told em they were a little unsure when they saw my name on the list of probationers, as they thought I was very uptight, but they had found I can funny and wise, sometimes at the same time! From that individual, that was praise indeed.

The question now is, how to keep in touch with them all...maybe I should consider joining Facebook?