Thursday, 1 May 2014

Where else can we go?

One of the things I love about the BBC sitcom 'Rev' is the way it makes me think about my own ministry. Adam Smallbone and I have some very similar 'crises of faith' - I empathise quite strongly with him at times. I am reminded of the finale from Series 1, where he seriously questions his calling, only to rediscover it as he is called upon to minister to someone in need: Oh, how true that is!

The recent third season has just come to an end, and has been perhaps the most emotionally- and theologically-charged television I've watched in a long time. Adam's struggle with temptation and the imminent and inevitable closure of his church building are constant thorns in my side and probably in those of many of my fellow clergy. After 24 years of circuit ('parish') ministry there are times when, like Adam, I have considered packing it all in.

But where else can I go?

There are two aspects to this question (at least). The church and its ministry is my life. I have given myself to it in what we in the Methodist Church refer to as a 'covenant relationship' where, in return for my service and services, the Conference with which I am in Full Connexion undertakes to provide me and my dependants with a house and an allowance to free me from undue financial concern. As someone who came into ministry in my 20s, I have very little materially to 'fall back on' and to some extent can at times feel almost trapped in my calling. Like Adam: no church, no house; and (despite what I and others might believe at times) no marketable skills. Where else can I go?

But, like Adam, there is also that nagging, persistent ache inside me, that tells me (when tongues are bitten; when egos are bruised; when tempers are frayed to breaking point; when hearts are broken; when tears are shed) that this is who I am, that this is where I should be and what I should be doing. Again, with Adam Smallbone, I find myself echoing: "You won't let me go, apparently."

These things have been on my mind in recent weeks as I have been considering the future course of my ministry. My current appointment will come to an end in September 2015, and the Methodist system provides an ample lead time for making decisions about new appointments. I have toyed with other avenues in which to exercise ministry, but keep finding myself tugged back to this humblest and most challenging of callings: to be someone who simply loves and serves (with) God's people.

Where else can I go?