Back in May 2008 I was at the Church of Scotland National Gathering. My home church were raising money for Riders for Health, so to distinguish our tent from all the other ones, we decided to focus on our fundraising for other charities. This gave us an excuse to park Spot's motorbike in front of the tent (so, if you were there and talked to the people at the tent with the motorbike, that may well have been Spot or I). It was a great weekend, which changed my life.
Though ministry had been suggested to me in my very early teens, I had ignored, run away and argued against it for 20 years. Over the couple of years before the National Gathering, I'd felt more and more frustrated with the job I was doing, but anytime I looked for something more fulfilling this little voice in the back of my head would be saying 'ministry'. So, I ignored it. After all, my work allowed me to do many things in my spare time for God - if anything, I was almost following the Pauline tent maker model. But it didn't feel enough or what I was supposed to be doing.
I had so many reasons why I shouldn't be a minister. I'm not religious enough; I don't know the bible that well; I'm too direct; I come from the wrong sort of background; I occasionally swear or drink beer;...the list went on and on. Yet, that's exactly what they were, excuses.
In the few months leading up to the National Gathering I was hearing sermons or prayers or bible studies where my excuses almost seemed to being dealt with. And every time I saw a poster advertising the Enquirers' conference that little voice in the back of my head would gently tell me that I should be going to one. But I still resisted.
One of the speakers at the National Gathering was John Sentamu - the Archbishop of York. At the end of his talk he invited people forward. I can't remember what he said, but I felt compelled to go forward. It was almost as though I was committing to going where God was calling me, though, if I was totally honest, hoping I'd find being a minister wasn't it! There and then I decided I would go to the next Enquirerers' conference.
So, the following month I headed off to Enquirers' conference, hoping I'd find what God was really calling me to and that ministry was just the impetus to get me to look at where God was leading me. At the end of the weekend, it became pretty clear God was calling me to be a minister. Gulp!
So, I sent off the forms to start the process of enquiry. That began in the September of 2008 and that is where this blog begins (if you want to read from the beginning, click here).
For a variety of reasons, not least my enquiry supervisor (who's officially known as a local reviewer) being off sick for 6 weeks, then I was also off for around 6 weeks, at local review I was given an extension in my enquiry for another 6 months. That was at another church (where I learnt so much).
At the end of my second 6 months, the local review came around again., By this point I was much more accepting of the possibility that God was calling me to be a minister. The panel at that local review sent me to National Enquiry.
National Enquiry went well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went there with the attitude of this is who I am and if they don't like it, tough. Though relieved at receiving the letter accepting me to train as a minister, I was surprised too, especially when I subsequently learnt of the 8 people there (many of whom seemed better gifted for ministry than I am) only 2 of us were accepted.
As I'd not applied for uni until accepted, I had to defer beginning my training for a year. I did not see this as a set back (though others did). As it worked out, I was offered redundancy during that year, so I was paid to leave a job I was intending to quit anyway.
Now, after the required placements, a summer of work experience, and three years at uni, I am about to begin the next exciting stage in my journey - probation. That will be a 15 month full-time period where I will learn and grow and be challenged and stretched in so many amazing ways at Airside Kirk, under the supervision of Laura Roslin. It seems so long since this journey started, but the way everything works out time and time again, I know I am excatly where God needs and wants me to me. How cool is that?!
And a final thought. If you feel called to do something outrageous by God, go for it. As I am discovering, he really looks after you and knows exactly why he wants you. You have an act of love for the world that no one else can give to the world. Honest, you do, so go for it.