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?