The Ripley Methodist Circuit last night held its Circuit Meeting at which they had to vote as to whether or not I should stay or leave. I had requested a further two years beginning on 1st September 2009 as this would see Alison through her ordination training, see Ripley Methodist through its building project and see the Circuit through the proposed boundary changes (in 2010).
Thankfully the circuit agreed to this extension, so subject to evangelism jobs coming up elsewhere in the country, I will be in Ripley until 2011. We are so pleased about this and relieved.
In the run up to the meeting everyone I spoke to said things like “Don’t worry. You`ll be accepted……..etc” and within me I strongly suspected they were right, but until the vote is actually taken you don`t really know. After all, what if ……….?
No one really understands how stressful it is to be subjected to such a vote and no matter how supportive people are (and Ripley have been magnificent), it will always be stressful. When I first began in Ministry I was all in favour of the itinerant system and to a large extent I still am, but I didn`t really understand the stress of it until my first Circuit vote in 1999, my second in 2003 and now this one. Each time has been painful even though the good people of the Circuits didn`t want it to be. And yet Methodism puts us through this `trial` at regular intervals.
What does it do for Ministry. It can sometimes feel as though you daren`t upset or challenge the congregations in case they vote you out. I know that’s the wrong attitude but you have to be tough to avoid that happenng. its only human for it to cross peoples minds sometimes; It means that sometimes initiatives aren`t tackled just in case the Minister can`t see it through; In some cases it means that projects are put on hold because people know a new Minister is coming next year and so on it goes.
For the Minister and his/her family it creates tension and anxiety re. spouses employment, children’s education, moving away from grown up children and the loss of friends in many cases. To be asked to move on can be a real bereavement.
And yet I don`t know the answer either. I believe in going where God has called me to go, but I`m not convinced the Methodist Stationing system actually directs according to Gods will. Instead I think we trust God to work through the mess, regardless.
But I`m staying in Ripley and right now that’s exactly where I want to be, so a big thank~you to the special people of this Circuit, and a bigger thank~you to God.
Please pray for all those going through the system from now on.