During the course of my annual appraisal I have been confronted by this question: 'Consider aspects of your ministry which have been particularly fulfilling.'
I had to stop and think.
Ministry - in its institutional sense - has been not just a part of my life, but has been my life, for the past 26 years (if you count the 3 years I spent in College in between my first 2 years and the last 21 years as a Circuit minister). It's not just what I do; it's what I am. So I don't often think of it in terms of fulfilment.
But it got me thinking: what do I most enjoy about this way of living? What is it that makes it worth getting out of bed in a morning (something I tend to do quite early)? There were two things that came to mind, but before I touch on them I want to take a step back, and consider something that happened at my Ordination in June 1994.
When Methodist presbyters are ordained by prayer and the laying-on of hands, they are presented not with a certificate of Ordination, but with a Bible. Mine sits on my prayer stool and I use it in my personal devotions, but it also stands as a reminder to me of the heart of my ministry.
Before a person can be accepted for training as a Methodist presbyter they must first be an accredited preacher. The Word of God is central to who we are and what we do. So the things that I find particularly fulfilling revolve around the Scriptures.
First of all, there is preaching and leading God's people in worship. Surely there can be no higher calling than to usher people into the presence of Almighty God, and to interpret God's timeless message for today. Yes, there are times when one wonders whether it was worth bothering (!), but more often than not the glimpses of God's glory outweigh the frustrations.
Secondly, there is the related act of sitting with a group of people and reading and discussing Scripture together. I've done this in churches, in homes, even in retirement and nursing homes, and the collective wisdom that is shared is, at times, quite humbling. God's word speaks through ordained and lay; young and old; trained and untrained; male and female. There is something holy about coming away from a passage thinking, 'I never saw it that way before.'
So I'm grateful for the question: when the less fulfilling aspects of this life crowd me out (as they sometimes do) I can remember what makes this life worth it.