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?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Getting ready

Blimey, probation isn't half flying in fast. Sunday will mark the 11 month mark. I really can't believe there's only 4 months to go!

Added to that is the realisation that there are some things which, in the next few weeks, I'll be doing for the last time at Airside Kirk. Or, the next time they happen may be less than 2 weeks before my time there is up!

I can honestly say, I have loved it. And continue to love it. Yes, there have been lower times, but that was me getting to grips with where I am spiritually and as a minister, rather than anything at Airside. I know I've come a long way, as the confidence in who I am, and what I am called to do is truly part of me, in a very real and deep down way.

Even more scary is in less than 4 weeks, I will have a review which will determine if I can begin the process of 'applying' for a charge. It's exciting and really quite terrifying all at the same time. Though there doesn't seem to be anything major, I'm taking nothing for granted about that.

Worryingly, or maybe not, there is one church which would like me to apply to them. That's not official, official, it you know what I mean, but they are quite keen on me. Not sure if I feel called, which is a shame, as they are lovely.

This week I've been filling in my forms which look at what I've done, how I've develop, over the year. I HATE FILLING IN FORMS. But I want to get them right, and give a fair and honest reflection on what I've achieved. The Boss also writes a report and we get to see one another's. I've always like the openness of this system. In this case, because supervision has been spot on, I suspect 121 might think we've copied and pasted from one another. But, that shows The Boss has done her job right, I think.

Then, the other night, I have a mock interview, as if I was applying for Airside. It was really useful and I can see where I could have answered better, where I answered well and questions I would want to put to a nom com. It was a bit surreal, too, though, as the group and I know one another very well. It's lovely how seriously they took it, how much effort and prep went into it and how much they want to help me as much as they can. Pity I can't take them with me, but I've been told I can't have them by The Boss!

Wherever I go I know it will be the right place and I will be the best minister I can be because of all who've worked with me since I began this journey 7 years ago, especially Airside. I'll miss them; boy will I miss them.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Getting real

Ten and a half months, that's how long I've been on probation. On one level, it feels as though I've been at Airside Kirk for years, but on the other hand, the time hasn't half flown in. So, deadlines are coming up. And they are making me 'glup.'

There's a church law essay, which I have been procrastinating over for a while. (Actually, still am!). Then, at the same time, the various forms The Boss and I need to fill in, assessing and reflecting on all I've done, go into 121. They form the basis for the discussion at my final review, which is towards the end of June. If that review goes well, I can 'properly' begin bouncing up and down and saying "pick me, pick me" to various churches.

And this is where the 'what church would be daft enough to take me' doubts creep in. On one level, I really do know I can do this. Since beginning training, I have experience how God has, and continues, to gift me with what I need to follow my calling. That has been most in evidence through this probationary period.

People, especially within the congregation, have told me to have greater confidence in my abilities. And I know where they are coming from, but I also know there's a fine line between confidence and complacency and/or cockiness. There's being realistic, without being self-deprecating, while always relying on God.

Oh, and before the essay and forms are due, before the final interview, my wonderful (and I do mean this, they are wonderful) support group are going to put me through a mock interview. For which I'll (I think) need to prepare a CV. And work out what questions I'll ask. I don't want to do it, but know I need to...

And a CV. Oh, there are people in the congregation who can help with this, but I am really bad at selling myself. If I'm being honest, I sort of object to having to sell myself, but how else is a congregation who may want me going to know what I am coming with. I know an application form, then I have fixed questions to answer. Argh. But needs must. Must remember not to be flippant with it!

It's all getting a bit 'real.' Was always going to. But it's definitely where I should be going and I know God is with me and before me and around me every step of the way.