Thursday, 18 December 2014

Just get on with it

On Sunday, I woke up with a throat so sore, it felt as though I had swallowed a packet of razor blades. Thankfully, I still had a voice (especially once lubricated with about half a gallon of tea) and, due to the nativity play being staged during worship, I wasn't speaking that much.

By the time I went to bed on Sunday, I knew a cold was brewing (I know, not unusual at this time of year, but bear with me, there's a point, honest!). Monday was a morning of a bit of prep for the coming couple of weeks. I had planned on fitting in a couple of pastoral visits, but decided it wouldn't be that pastorally sensitive taking my virus out to those who are vulnerable (oh, they were okay, until Mrs Gerbil visited, now they have pneumonia). By lunchtime, I could feel I was getting a bit worse for wear, as I was putting extra layers on. I don't feel the cold. This was not a good sign.

But I had to head out in the afternoon. I was leading the Advent study and, with The Boss being unavailable, it was up to me. It did go well, but I could have done without it.

Then, yesterday, there was the funeral I was taking. Okay, had push come to shove, I could have contacted the pastoral assistant attached to Airside, to see if they could step in, but didn't want to do that. Firstly, due to distance, I hadn't actually met the lead mourners before the event, only been in contact via phone and email. At least I knew the voice, but that was it. But more importantly, I had a pastoral responsibility to conduct the funeral - to those I had met, to those I had spoken to and to the funeral director.

Fortunately, I managed to carry out my duties. I don't think the mourners or my fellow professionals realised I wasn't well, which is good, as I would hate to think they were more concerned about me than being given the opportunity to mourn their loved one. It's amazing what a packet of cough sweets and 2 aspirins before a service can do!!!

But today, I'm missing a couple of school assemblies. Yes, I've a lot better, but don't think it would be a good start to children's (or teachers') holidays them getting my cold. It would have been nice to go and support the nativities, but certainly not a priority.

Which gets into the territory of what is a priority? And, me being very much aware in a parish, 'on my own', I may well just have to get on with stuff, irrespective of how I am feeling (within reason, I know there may be times where that isn't an option). But where's the line (and is there a line?) and what is and isn't a priority. I suspect that will change and evolve as I go on. It's also highlighted, for me, the necessity of having some people within a congregation who could step up to take a funeral or lead worship. And, of course, maintaining good relationships with neighbouring colleagues, as they may have to be called upon to step in, if necessary (and they are available).

So, felling rotten? Might just have to get on with it.

Monday, 8 December 2014

I am the sort of person who becomes a minister

The road to ministry has been a long one, for me. It was back in 2008 I (finally) attended an enquirers' conference (now known as a vocations' conference). But my call to ministry, or the seeds of that call, were first sown when I was in my early teens. So, if I start the journey there, it is over 25 years - well, you don't want to rush these things, do you???

When I was getting to that stage in life (17 years old), when I was trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life, the call began to be a plant, rather than just seeds. I prayed; I thought long and hard about it. Looking back, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had accepted my call then, but I also look at the things (good and bad) I have experienced and see how much I have already been able to use in my ministry.

Being someone who had a strong church connection, and a school friend whose Dad was a minister, I decided to confide in my friend and their Dad. Their reaction - my friend laughed and her Dad told me "People like you don't become ministers." Being somewhat naive and respecting that man's opinion (at that time), I realised I was wrong about my calling.

Now, you may be wondering why that minister said what he did. I didn't challenge it back then, but I suspect it was because I was brought up by a single parent; wasn't "righteous"; I came from one of the less attractive areas of my home town; hadn't become a member of the church by that stage (that come when I was 21, when I was right for me, rather than the 'natural progression at 15/16 from Sunday School.); am a bit of an introvert, and basically am not your 'normal' ministry fodder. Okay, this is all speculation, but it did mean I ignored and fought my call more than I may otherwise have, all due to one person's comment.

But here I am. With 2 degrees (still wondering how that happened), more than 5 months through probation in my journey to become a minister. Actually, no, I am a minister. I may not be an ordained minister, but I am a minister. I believe it, Airside Kirk congregation relate to me as their assistant minister and God calls me as a minister.

So, perhaps people like me don't (usually or normally) become ministers, but God doesn't look at what's normal or usual. He often calls the unlikely and the outsider. And I, in many ways, am one. But he still calls. And I am glad I now am a minister, even if it took me a while and I am not the most likely candidate.

It looks like my school friend's Dad was wrong. I am the sort of person who becomes a minister.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

100% Mrs Gerbil

Airside Kirk really is the best placement I have been on. The others were, in their own ways, places where I learnt and grew. In some cases, it is only with the benefit of hindsight (and a bit of distance) that I can now see how they have moulded, challenged and encouraged me. But, for each one before now, I was going where I didn't want to go (well, Highland Cathedral may be an exception, but I was only there for a short period of time, compared to Airside).

I was persuaded to go to Eagleside, but had somewhere else in mind. And Caledonia Kirk - I deliberately chose because it was so different from any church I have experienced - in worship and leadership style and theologically. The bottom line with those two placements, in particular, is I never fitted in. And that was inevitable, but a strain too. I never really could be who I am and, I suppose, that meant I never truly embraced that I am called to be a minister. Yes, I knew I had been accepted to train, I was training, but maybe I wasn't fully there. Partly, I have had the feeling I am going to be 'found out' at any point and the powers that be will realise they've made a terrible mistake.

But, over 5 months at Airside, I have truly accepted where I am heading. I am getting used to being looked to for as a source of advice, teaching, listening ear, etc etc. I am accepting when I stand at the front of the congregation, they want to listen to me (yes, I know, to me).

This 'transformation' is partly due to being immersed in congregational and parish life, being on this 15 month full-time journey. It is partly due to a great congregation, who I have fitted in so well with. Mainly, though, it is working with a brilliant supervisor who, in the way she is as a minister, has given me the permission to be the minister I am called to be. And I am so aware just how lucky I am to be serving my probation under her guidance.

I know I have commented, in the past, that I have tried to emulate Laura, but I don't anymore, as I am who I am. I cannot be someone else. A few years ago, in this post, I talked of my first minister and how I would want to be a portion of the minister he is. The other day, a respected and senior minister in the Kirk told me if I became half the minister Laura is, I would do very well. But now I don't want to be 50% her or 10% him. I am called to be 100% Mrs Gerbil. Nothing more, nothing less. That is who God calls me to be and that is how I should follow.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Teaching and growing

A couple of months ago, I wrote on my feelings on people thinking I was near the beginning, rather than the end of my probation. Bottom line, it terrified me.

I talked this over with a couple of wise friends and with The Boss. All pointed out I should be enjoying it, rather than beating myself up, or trying to 'find the flaws'. And they were right. I have noticed, by focusing on the positives the things I needed to improve on have done so actually quite naturally. It also means I am more and more comfortable, not only in what I am saying and doing (and being) as I learn and grow at Airside, but I am really beginning to accept the congregation there are looking to me to teach them, to listen to them, to (a certain extent) lead them.

It hadn't really occurred to me that the 'expectation' placed on me, the congregation wanting to listen to what I am saying, wanting to seek me out to listen to them, wanting me 'just' to be there was something I wasn't that comfortable with. Every Sunday (though not only on a Sunday) I had been looking out, seeing all those faces looking at me and not really 'got' that they wanted to listen. (Does this make sense?).

Yet, that's part of what I am called to do. Lead worship, preach the good news, teach the congregation. After the conversations about the pressure I felt of 'being too good' and realising how much I have been taken to the hearts of Airside congregation, I realise I need to be who I am and accept (really accept) the calling placed on me. And accept, despite some highly educated people (much more educated than I am) in the congregation, including retired ministers, when 'up front' it is me they are wanting to hear (well, actually, I really hope they hear God's word, working through me, but that's probably a post for another time).

Which means I am much more comfortable in more than scratching the surface in preaching, much more comfortable in trying things out (last week, I included pictures in the sermon, which really worked) and making a fool of myself if necessary. The people gathered have come to worship and hear the word of God preached. When I step up to do that, they want to listen to what I have to say. It's a great privilege and honour to be called to do this, to be allowed to do this too.

The good thing is, despite my concerns (or was that fears?), I am still improving. A member of the congregation mentioned that my confidence has really improved, but I wasn't un-confident to begin with - we knew what she meant, but it's hard to explain. I do hope that confidence doesn't turn to cockiness, as then I would fall on my face.

The whole teaching thing is a little ironic, as I originally 'planned' to become a chemistry teacher. Many people once told me I would make a good teacher, but I never did fulfil that ambition. Yet, there I am, 5 months into probation, being a teacher of sorts. It hadn't really occurred to be until last week, when a member of the congregation (who is a retired teacher) told me "It is the sign of a good teacher that they allow their pupils to think and work out things for themselves. You do that, Mrs G." Wow. Looks like my ambition to teach was a calling too, I hadn't realised it till now.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

5 months in

I'm really settling into my role at Airside Kirk and the congregation are definitely getting comfortable with me, which just makes everything so good. There's not really a whole lot of other ways to put it.

The other week, I was leading the children's address and put a silly hat on. I knew someone in the congregation (or The Boss) would comment, and they did. Without being fazed or pausing for breath, I thanked them (not in a sarcastic way, I hasten to add) and carried on. A few people after the service commented on how great that was to see and The Boss was well impressed, as it showed just how much the congregation have accepted me as their assistant minister.

And, I am much more comfortable in the 'role.' That's not about doubting the call, but it's different as I am on many levels being a minister, rather than 'just' a student on placement. I am taking the lead on things, being sought out for advice or for a listening ear and it's great.

It's not without its challenges, but what job isn't. Most of those I can't really post about at the moment, but they aren't anything I can't learn and grow in and through. Of course, it does help that I have a totally brilliant supervisor. For me, both at this stage in my training and who I am as a person, Laura is just perfect. I respect her enormously and love her to bits. She's tough on me when she needs to be, but it doesn't actually feel tough, if that makes sense, because I know she wants the best of me.

I am just so blessed to be on probation where I am. Yes, it's not just the minister which makes it a fabby place to be, but as I am working so closely with her, it is just a bonus which I thank God for.

5 months in and I can see I have grown in confidence, experience and understanding of where God is leading me. And I absolutely love it. I love the people, I love the variety and I love that God has invited me to be a minister. Where I will land up (this time next year - argh!!!!!) I don't know, but I do know this is exactly where I need to right now, at this stage in my journey of faith.