Monday, 29 September 2008

Small world

They say anyone can connect with anyone else in the world through no more than 7 other people - 7 degrees of separation. I've found at my placement church I don't need nearly as many degrees to make connections with some of the members there:

The minister is the son of my husband's former minister.
The depute session clerk and his wife are Scout leaders and I used to be a cub leader.
On of the members is a former colleague of mine.

Given yesterday was only my second Sunday with my placement church, I don't think that's bad going in establishing connections. It'll be even more interesting when I go to the next stage of this enquiry process - the Co-ordinated field assessment (I know, sounds like a management buzz phrase). I have to liaise with both my supervisor and a representative from presbytery. The minister who is the presbytery rep did her probation (the final bit of training for the ministry before ordination) with my home church. I'm starting to feel I know everyone!!!

Hopefully, familiarity has not bred contempt and people don't assume things about me on the basis of the little I know. Interestingly, the member who I used to work with was really pleased with why I was at his church. I worked as a Land Surveyor with him, so not the type of job you'd expect to glean an insight into a persons ministry potential. At least I must have left a good impression on him, especially as I hadn't worked with him for eight years!

I have a meeting with my supervisor on Thursday. I'm not sure what for, as we've already discussed my role in the services for the next couple of weeks. I shall see what the meeting brings.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Coffee Mornings

This morning I was at my home church, helping with a coffee morning in aid of Riders for Health, the charity the young church is raising money for this year. Anyway, there were a few of the leaders, the ministers and some of the children there helping. This was also the first time I'd been at my church since telling them I was going on placement.

During the course of the morning, I got the impression the leaders were up to something. One of them came up to me and said "We're having to go to the young church cupboard". The tone was "and you're not to come". Now, if nothing had been said, I'd have thought nothing of it. They're getting something to prepare for tomorrow's lesson. Coming out with a line like that just rouses my suspicions. Also, the same leader went up to my female minister and (I can lip-read a bit) said "sign Mrs Gerbil's card". The minister made eye contact with me and the leader then moved round to block my view of proceedings!!! I had to pretend I was going to the toilet, as I needed to go somewhere for a good laugh. As my husband would put it, (and apparently did, to their faces) they were as subtle as a kick in the nuts!

I don't like a fuss, so they gave me a small gift in the kitchen, where I was on my own (thankfully). Unfortunately, I don't know the full contents of the gift, as we'd taken our motorbikes to the church and didn't have enough room to bring it home. My husband will get it tomorrow.

Touchingly, two of the young church came to give me the present. That's what I do these hings for, the appreciation of the children. I did tell them I wasn't away yet, but they told me they wanted to give me their good wishes.

This is where exploring my call is going to be toughest and I suppose a reason why I've run away from it for so long. I love the children (and the grown-ups too) of my home church. I feel I'm letting them down by not being there. Not being able to help them grow, learn about God and discuss trains and lego (amongst many other things). I know if this is part of God's plan for me, and I am called be a minister, He will also provide them with another leader who will lead them on the next part of their journey with Him. I hope I will remain in contact with a few of them, as I also regard their parents as good friends.

Getting back to more mundane things, though, the coffee morning raised just under £200. This sets the project well on target to raising enough money for a motorbike, training and tools for a health care worker and mechanic. You can learn more about Riders by clicking here, or on the Riders for Health at the start of this post.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

20(ish) thing you've always wanted to ask a minister

Following on from Monday's post, this is the list if questions I cam up with. Some were silly, some serious and some I knew the answer already. All of them were to discover the type of minister my supervisor is and to see it I'd be able to work with them over the new few months.

Why is the dog collar worn?
Historically - don't know. Now, a sort of uniform.
Can auxiliary Ministers take the sacraments?
Why can only Ministers perform the sacraments?
What sets a reader apart from someone else who may lead worship?
They've undergone selection and are officially set apart as a reader.
How, apart from performing the sacraments, does the role of Deacon differ from Minister?
They don't "lead" the congregation and are support for both the minister and the parish.
How do you deal with strained silence when asked what you do for a living by someone who's just met you?
Doesn't happen very often, as most people know what I do
When first following your call, how did those around you react?
Not that surprised, as I'm the son-of-the-manse. Some friends did drift away, though.
Who ministers to the ministers?
Officially, no-one. Unofficially; their family, friends and congregation
Should creationism be taught in science classes?
What do you say to people that ask "If your God is so loving and powerful, why does He let so many bad things happen"?
God gave people free-will.
How do you get the local parish to care about the church?
Make it a hub for the community - it's where guides, scouts, mothers and toddlers etc meet.
How do explain ministry isn't a choice, but a call?
You can't, but with free-will, it can be ignored.
How do you deal with a congregation which will not be involved in services, outreach work etc- they are quite happy to sit and let the minister do everything?
Work on them and chip away over the years.
Do you get time off for good behaviour?
How does ministry affect your relationships?
It's harder to stay in touch with friends, as ministry is very tying at weekends and evenings, but other relationships come from it.
How do you ensure you have time for yourself, interests, friends and family?
Have an answering machine. Make sure the office is "closed" sometimes.
How do you restore your soul, especially after a bad day?
Spending time with family and friends.
What's your take on people who say Harry Potter is the work of Satan?

The bold is my questions; plain text the synopsis of my supervisor's answers. I like his attitude and know I'll be able to work well with him now.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The "Big" Questions

For discussion, I'd complied a list of 20(ish) questions I'd always wanted to ask a minister, but was afraid to ask. That was the title of the list. Anyone who knows me knows I've never been afraid to ask.

This lead to an interesting discussion tonight about ministry, in it's various guises, up to and including the ministry of word and sacrament (to use the full Church of Scotland phraseology). I'll publish the list at a later date, with my views. From this discussion I see even more clearly that I do know what I'm letting myself in for and just how rewarding and challenging a call it is. I fel very lucky to be working with the supervisor I have, as it seems to be developing into a give and take relationship already.

I'm also feeling very privileged that God wants me (yes, me!!!!!) to minister to his people for Him. The more I reach out to this call, the more it fits. I pray I can serve the Lord in the way he wishes me to.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm doing a prayer and leading the children's address. Personally, I think children's addresses are the hardest thing to do in a service. You've to sum up the theme for the service to children aged 2-15 and this is the bit that most of the grown-ups are really paying attention. Get this right, you've won over everyone. Get it wrong and you've lost everyone. Also, you have to be prepare for children asking the "big" questions. My main concern if they'll be very quiet, for the new girl!

I have impressed my supervisor's sons, though. I turned my on my motorbike tonight and let them try on my helmet. Hopefully word will get round their junior church and the other children will be relaxed with me fairly soon. I think, if you win the children, everything else is a little easier. I hope my theory proves to be correct!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The First Sunday

Today was my first day at my placement church. The main thing was I got there without getting lost!

I arrived fairly early, to make sure my supervisor wouldn't panic and to get changed from my biker trousers into jeans. It gets really hot. My supervisor, to be fair, did say that it didn't matter what I wore. I'll remember that when it's cold!

I did the readings (at least there was a reason for me to be there). Not many comments on them, other than 1 guy saying "aye, you did a'right wi' the readings lass". I took that as a complement.

Everyone at my placement church seemed really welcoming and friendly. After the service, there was a soup and pudding lunch, so that gave me the chance to chat to some of the members (a couple of whom I know though my former life as a cub scouter) and to my supervisor and his wife. My husband came up to join us for that. He's currently asking every ministers' spouse what the impact is for them. Personally, I think it's easier for a husband than a wife. Wives are traditionally expected to help with the Guild and Sunday School. Husbands weren't traditionally the spouses of ministers, so there isn't a "traditional" role for them. Probably not a bad thing.

Today there was also an induction in my home church. My minister's husband is also a minister, but in the 8 years they've been at our church he's been the house-husband; looking after their sons. Now the boys are all at school, it was natural he found something ministerial to do. My home church is also a linked charge - 2 churches, 2 lots of ministerial work. To cut a long story short, today was the induction of my minister and her husband as the joint ministers of the 2 churches. They're now both part-time. Most people think it's great. My "original" minister gets more time for herself and to spend with her sons and my "new" minister gets to use his calling.

Before the service, I managed to tell in person the individual I wanted to tell last week about my calling. I went up to her and said "I've something to tell you". Smiling, she replied "You're going to have a baby". "No, unless you know something I don't!" I then told her I wouldn't be at my home church very often as I feel called to ministry and that was part of the process to explore my call. To say she was thrilled was an understatement. She's a wonderful lady and has always been very interested with what I'm up to. I told her my husband would keep her up-to-date.

The service was good humoured, despite the formality of the occasion. After the service, there was refreshments. One of my home church's members came up to me and said "I've heard your news, that's brilliant. If you hurry up, you can bury me". Brilliant! So, I now have a booking!!! I did also point out to her that anyone can preside over a funeral.

I went to my female minister to offer my congratulations. She gave me a knowing look of "it'll be you one day". I told her about my "booking"; she laughed.

So far, everything is very positive. Even my husband is excited about what I'm up to and thinks I'll be good at ministry. As long as God is with me, I'm sure I can do anything he calls me to do.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Coming out

As yesterday was the last Sunday I'd be at my home church for a few months, I knew I'd have to come out. Both my minister and husband had told me that I'd have to at least tell the other young church leaders.

I decided to go the whole hog and tell the whole of the young church (if you hadn't worked it out, I'm a young church leader at my home church). I firmly believe you tell children the truth and definitely don't BS them. I remember how much it bugged me when I was a kid. Besides, if I didn't tell them the truth, it would put those I had told in a terrible position and the children would worry I was ill (or worse).

I simply told them I wasn't going to be around very often for a while as I felt I was supposed to be a minister and would be visiting another church to see if this was right. One of the children asked if I wanted to do that. I told them that I felt it was part of God's plan for me. That was about all the children said. I was really worried about telling them, in case they either thought I was being really funny (they know my strange sense of humour), or did the children's equivalent of "WTF, you a minister, you must be joking".

I know tt's quite a big thing for them to take in. Fortunately, my husband will be around to answer some of their questions and keep them up-to-date with how I am. Also, I've assured the superintendent (chief leader) of the young church that I will research ideas for them.

I also mentioned to one other person in the church in person. She's a little older (not necessarily more mature) than the young church. She wasn't fully listening at the time (there were about 3 conversations going on at the one time). A little later on, she came to me and asked "Were you saying you were considering entering the ministry?". I told her yes and she said "That's great news". Coming from her, I don't think she knows how important that was to me.

There was one other person I wanted to tell in person, but they were either not at church or I just missed them. My husband was going to come to my placement church for moral support and to introduce himself, but I've asked him to tell this person. I didn't have to ask him twice as I know she'll be thrilled. She get excited enough when I do something really simple in church.

I think next Sunday's going to be pretty intensive for my husband, as a lot of people will be asking about this. My Mum will also be at my home church. She can't go every week as she works in an old folks home. In some respects, I think she'll need my husband next week more than I will, as she doesn't know as much as he does and will be getting bombarded with questions. I hope everyone at my home church doesn't go overboard. I hate a fuss and they should know that by now!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The first meeting

I met up with the minister who will be my co-ordinator for at least the next 8 weeks for my extended enquiry on Thursday. He was really friendly and put me totally at my ease, which was handy as I was quite nervous; not so much about meeting him, but the implications of the meeting.

We discussed some of our backgrounds. He's a son of the Manse (a Manse is a Scottish word for the house that a minister lives in), so I would have thought that would have put him off for life. We also discussed what would happen during this part of the enquiry process. We also discussed things I could attend, help out with etc.

Personally, I think this part is really vague (it must last at least 8 weeks, but can continue for up to 6 months). I also very much get the impression this part of the process is aimed at people exploring their call who really have absolutely no idea what a minister does, except 1 service a week on a Sunday. I think if it was that easy, there would be people applying to be ministers right, left and centre. I've never been that naive, even when I was a child. As I said to my co-ordinator, Sunday's will often be a minister's quieter day! He agreed.

So, giving I'm pretty sure I know what I'm letting myself in for (which has been backed up by my minister - she knows that I know how busy she is), I'm treating this part of the process as partly tick box, as I have to do it, and partly an opportunity to get to know the people and organisations of the church my placement is with.

I start my extended enquiry next Sunday and my co-ordinator is warning the congregation I'll be turning up today. Ill be doing the reading there. I could have done nothing, but I'd rather do something, as that gives me (and the congregation) an opening.

There's a couple of people in my church who know I am taking part in this process. As today will be the last Sunday I can go to my church for a while (as least regularly), I need to let word trickle out a bit. I am one of the young church leaders and I think the most important people I need to tell are the members of the young church. They will wonder where I am. Besides, I remember I used to hate it when I was a child and knew something important was happening, but grown-ups wouldn't tell you. Ever since then, I've always tried to answer children's questions and tell them the truth, if I can. I have to admit, telling them will probably be the hardest thing I've had to do so far, in this process.

I'm also a biker. I regularly turn up at my church either in my bike or on the back of my husband's bike. I haven't warned my co-ordinator about this, yet. I prefer to see people's reaction when they don't know me especially. I like to challenge stereotypes and get people thinking about their prejudges. Hopefully, if and when I turn up at my placement church on my motorbike, I don't get too much negativity. I will keep you posted about how it all went.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Process

In order to discover if I am really "called" to be a minister in the Church of Scotland, there is an Enquirers' process I have to go through.

So far, I have attended an Enquirers' Conference in Dundee. This lasted 24 hours, from a Friday late afternoon. There were about 100 enquirers and during the time we attended talks and semiars about the various jobs within the Church of Scotland; from full-time ordained Ministry to care worker in one of the Crossreach's (the social care provider branch of the Church of Scotland) care homes for the elderly. There are many ways to serve God, not just through ordained Ministry.

We also had some (not a lot) social time, where we could discuss our feelings with other enquirers. From my perspective, that was the most rewarded part of the event, as I realised I felt the same as many of the other enquirers who felt they are called to ordained Ministry - fear, excitement, nervousness, denial, "why me" etc. What a relief, I wasn't alone!

At the end of the Enquirers' Conference we were given details of the rest of the enquiry process, for those of us who wanted to become either ministers, deacons or readers. Firstly, we have a period of extended enquiry, for usually around 6-8 weeks, but it can be as long as 6 months. This, I think, is to let us see what we're letting ourselves in for like I don't know). On completion of this, we can then enter a field assessment, which last 6 months. I'm not entirely sure what this involves, but I will be working with a minister (or minister) and doing services, pastoral work etc. Pretty much showing my potential to minister.

If my co-ordinator is happy with me at the end of the field assessment, I can then attend selection school, where my call will be tested to the limit (I'd imagine) during another 24 (I think) assessment. If that goes well, I would be selected as a suitable candidate to become a minister within the Church of Scotland.

If that is my call, and I am selected, I would have to go to university to study theology or divinity. While studying, I would also have some placements with churches to learn the non-academic part of the role. After uni, I would then have a 15 month placement with a church to learn all the part of the role, including the legal things, such as weddings. At least I'm aware the role of a minister is a lot more than 1 hour a week on a Sunday. I think many people don't realise that.

As you can see, there's quite a lot. I have a meeting with a minister who will be my co-ordinator on Thursday for my extended enquiry and will, hopefully, know more what's going on after that!!!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

In the Begining

When I was at school wondering what to do with my life I prayed to God asking what He wanted me to do. Since then I have been running away from that call. Finally, after nearly 20 years of avoiding my call, I have decided to take the first steps along the road.

The turning point for the begining of this journey was back in June, at the Church of Scotland's National Gathering. One of the speakers was the Archbishop of York - John Sentamu. At one of the services, he asked anyone who wanted to come forward if they wanted to commit further to God. At this point, I felt a great urge to go forward; to finally declare to God, okay you want me to be a Minister, so here I am. That was the moment when I stopped running away from my calling and started to accept what God wants me to do with my life.

Since then, I have begun the first steps of Enquiry required to explore my call, within the Church of Scotland. Further posts will follow the ups and downs of this exploration.