Chewing things over

Probation conference number 2 finished today and it was one of the best so far – I’m including candidates’ conferences in that too. All the sessions reinforced one another and the whole was challenging and encouraging. The theme was ‘Mission’ and the overarching idea was that the church is not called to ‘do mission’ but to ‘be missional’. Mission, in whatever shape or form it takes in any particular context should suffuse and shape the life of a congregation.

We heard some amazing stories of what can happen when people are empowered to follow through their vision of God’s purpose for them and for their community. Lives turned around through the witness of others, the simple expressions of love shown to the outcast and stranger.

There was so much to process that I’ll need to take time just to sort it through in my own head, but there was one particular, personal ‘urge’ I can identify, albeit in a fragile and immature form. The single biggest message was that mission takes time – years – to grow from the initial seeds through to even just the first tentative shoots. As I look ahead and begin thinking about where I might sense a calling to, I am beginning to sense that I want to be somewhere for the long haul. I want to be somewhere I can commit to. The first charge has a minimum time limit of 5 years and I know people do move on after that point. I sense that I don’t want to do that. There’s something that is telling me that wherever I go I want to be there for the  duration, so to speak.

In some respects that’s been the pattern of my previous employment. I was there 21 years all told, albeit working under different owners at different times, but any urge to move on was overcome by new challenges from within the company. Maybe a pattern for ministry? Who knows? And, of course, who knows what might happen when I get to that point. Sowing and reaping are not necessarily done by the same people. Either way, I feel it’s a step closer to knowing what shape my ministry might be.

7 responses to “Chewing things over”

  1. Remember that people make plans – and God laughs! 10 years ago I wanted away from school, and wanted to preach without the hassle of pastoral and committee work! What am I doing now? Chaplain to 2 schools, Reader attached as pastoral assistant, and Presbytery committee convener – but I do get to preach occasionally!!!

  2. John
    interestingly i was at my ‘one year in’ conference this week and the topic of when to move was raised by one of my colleagues – I have to admit to being suprised he was already talking about the ‘five year’ move. It may have crossed my mind in a ‘wonder if I am here for a short time or the long haul?’ kindof way but only fleetingly.

    I have no idea how long I will be where I am – I hope it is for a long time – there is so much to do – so much potentential. I am open to what God’s plan is but not second guessing him – and certainly not putting time limits on it like my colleague.

    It is lovely to read your blog and sense your excitement about your ministry.

  3. I think this ‘when to move’ thing is something we have to stay open to… as Andrew says God’s plans are not ours as I have found over and over during my first two years in my charge. At this precise moment I would love to find that sense of clarification you speak about John as for me  all is in flux  – suffice to say that my first charge (to which I have an unrestricted call) may not have three years let alone five!!

  4. The ‘when to move’ thing is something to keep an open mind about.  We all of us want to be in for the long haul, but… My first move came when it was move or leave ministry such was the loving attitude of some in my first charge. My own thought might be that ten to twelve years in one place is enough, but that depends on the Almighty. There are massive problems with following on from a long ministry and I speak with authority on this. Five years is needed to last out that period of sowing and growing that you talk about in your blog.

  5. I think the main point is that there is a realisation that one of the questions I need to ask myself when looking at potential charges is, “Do I see myself staying here for 20 years?”

    That links in with whether that congregation has anything like a long-term vision, where they see themselves in that time. Recognition of the long-term nature of being missional has to be on both sides. I guess what I am saying is that I would now be looking for that long-term view in a potential charge as well as in myself.

  6. Mmh…it’s an odd one. I know of ministers who have intended to move after 5-6 years and stayed for the duration. I also know of those who intended to stay until retirement and left after 5, for a variety of years.
    I speak as someone who has been in my job for 10 years ans never imagined I’d stay so long. My last job as the something I really enjoyed and had wanted to do when I graduated – I left after 1 year. As David alluded to, the people we work with can make a huge difference. Personally, I would perfer to stay for the long haul, but I’m going to keep an open mind. I’ve learnt not to second guess God’s plans!

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