Yesterday marked the last day of my final candidates’ conference: today marks the beginning of probation.
Endings and new beginnings are, I suppose, the very marks of a Christian’s story. That grand meta-narrative of scripture is a cycle of endings and new beginnings; enslavement and redemption, death and resurrection.
As I look back over previous placements, they have often been dominated by a particular theme. The last one was, unmistakably, all about ‘grace’. I have generally only noticed this developing theme some time into the placement, and often only with hindsight. But at this transition point I have a deep sense that this one is going to be all about ‘hope’. Quite how it will play out though is an entirely different matter, but nevertheless, that is what I feel right this moment.
I think part of the root of this comes from the conference. It would be easy to feel jaded by training conferences, especially after three placements and five years of academic study. But, of course, there is always more to learn (and I’ll no doubt end up blogging on some of them as my brain catches up with itself). But perhaps, in this instance, it is more about there being always more to be challenged by.
Along with Howard, a probationer, I presented a short session on ‘getting the most out of your training’ to the new candidates (of which there are 24 – and a great bunch they are too). Like a stuck record I emphasised the need to ‘know yourself’ and, more importantly, know, and be secure in, your relationship with God.
I thought I knew myself fairly well but nevertheless found my reaction to a session on Priority Areas particularly overwhelming and in a most peculiar way. I’ll probably blog about it separately so I’ll not go into details here. But it was one of those moments when you realise that the challenges ahead can seem utterly overwhelming and yet the example set by others (which can be all too easy to overlook when feeling overwhelmed by what they are attempting to do), working in the knowledge and surety of God’s love, is where that spark of hope exists and can ignite a greater passion for the work to be done.
Starting probation is maybe in a similar sort of category. Years of preparation lead to this point of putting it all to use. And that can seem overwhelming. Exciting too, without a doubt, but anyone who claims to have no anxieties about it, I suspect, is not being entirely honest with their self.
Yet, without that sense of hope, of the assurance and reality of rebirth, such anxieties would be a downward spiral. Instead, there is the realisation that we have an utter dependency on God; for grace, for love and for hope. And over and over again we have, through scripture and our own experience, the evidence of the reality of that hope.
What more could you need to carry carry forward into a new beginning?