I’ve just had a week off and did very little – an ideal way to spend a break. The relative inactivity did give me some time to think though. In a few weeks I have my interim review and that reminds me that this final placement is hitting the half way mark. If the second half disappears as quickly as the first then I have the reality of finding my own charge hurtling towards me very quickly. That first charge is also becoming an increasingly dominant topic of conversation between probationers (and with those who have taken an interest over the whole period).
It usually starts with the question, “What sort of place would you like to end up in?” Or words to that effect anyway. I’ve always been somewhat cagey, or at least non-committal, with my answers to that question. My journey to this point has been along a path littered with the plans I have made and then had to cast aside.
But, of course, it’s a subject that cannot be ignored and I’ve attempted to discern something of the nature of where that first call might come from and what sort of place I think I would settle into. Many moons ago I made the somewhat rash statement that you would never find me in an Urban Priority Area charge. I don’t think that’s changed any. I freely acknowledge that it’s not where I’m gifted and simply have no sense of ‘call’ to such a charge. I’ve also said/thought that I wouldn’t want a large town or city charge, preferring perhaps to be the only church, or at least one of few churches, in an area. It’s not that I don’t get on with people, just that that was what was in my head of where I could see myself. That, in many respects, narrows the field somewhat and I felt that a rural or semi-rural parish would be an obvious choice. I even mentally reviewed my background and gifts and abilities and felt that they wouldn’t be too bad a fit in such an environment. But I never really felt enthusiastic about it, so I still didn’t really know.
A while ago, someone made a comment to me about a particular charge. It was too early in the process for me to take it seriously and when it was mentioned more recently, I still didn’t pay much attention. There is much to commend the charge, despite some obvious, pending, issues. What’s more, it didn’t tick many of my boxes (or so I thought) and, indeed, sits firmly within one of the categories I had already dismissed (not the UPA one – that still stands). There are all sorts of other ‘issues’, both personal and associated with the charge, that perhaps ought to ring warning bells and yet they don’t. (It would be inappropriate to discuss these openly at this stage, so forgive me for being vague.)
Yet, despite all of this, over this past week there has been a growing sense of conviction that this might be ‘the place’. It makes sense in so many ways – both personal and ‘professional’. As I’ve already hinted, it also doesn’t make sense on both of these grounds, and yet there is a sense of ‘don’t worry about these’ as I consider them. As a choice, and also as a ‘revelation’, it follows the pattern of getting here in the first place and on those grounds alone I cannot ignore it or dismiss it easily. If I’ve learnt nothing else over the last few years, I’ve got better at listening to God. And this has all the hallmarks of direction from Him – at least when I consider previous experience. Timing and ‘modus operandi’ are just so blatantly obvious, at least to me.
But what I do need to discern is whether it is this place or whether it is a way of nudging me away from my ‘preferred’ choice and style and towards somewhere like this place. And there’s something about this line of reasoning that is appealing: not getting my hopes up; not getting fixated; not exploring more thoroughly. And yet there is also something that generates a spark of excitement when I think about it, that appeals beyond the rational. Is it just a sentimental view of the place (despite not having such strong connections with it) or is it the assurance and reassurance that ‘it’s right’ and will be right?
Time to think (and pray)!