In my earlier post on this topic I outlined the journey and the procedures I had followed leading up to the first meeting of the Methodist Church's Stationing Matching Group. That group has now completed its first meeting, over the course of 4 days, and I can say that the results for me and for the churches I currently serve were mixed.
As I stated previously, SMG met from 3rd to 6th November to consider 'matches' for 112 ministers and around 150 appointments. The way they do this is a little complex but is felt to be fair by those involved, and the general feeling is that the whole process is immersed in prayer from start to finish. At around 5:00 p.m. on 6th November I received a phone call from my Chair of District to inform me that a match had been made; that it was with one of the appointments 'on my list' - one that I had identified as being of interest to me; and I was invited to visit the Kendal Circuit with a view to becoming their Superintendent minister.
I have to say that my first response was one of delight, then a certain amount of trepidation. Superintendency is a huge responsibility in the Methodist Church, and although it is something I've considered for a while now, the prospect still makes me a little nervous (maybe that's a good thing). The following morning the Circuit Steward from Kendal phoned to arrange a visit, which was to take place a week later. In the meantime I checked out websites for the churches, the circuit and the District, and was sent details of the itinerary for the visit, and of the manse in which we would be living.
Meanwhile the appointment I will be leaving had discovered that, unfortunately, they had been unsuccessful in the first stationing round - not through any fault of their own, but simply because by the time they were 'called' all the available ministers had been matched. This caused a small amount of despondency in some, but there is still a good chance that a match will be made in the second round at the beginning of December. We continue to pray that the right person for this appointment is found, and hope that SMG will deal equitably with those appointments like ours which remained unmatched after round 1.
So, the day of the visit arrived. We drove up from Sheffield and met the Circiut Stewards in a lay-by just off Junction 36 on the M6 for them to drive us to the manse, where we met with them and the circuit staff for a chat before having a tour of the house. We then drove to the larger of the two churches I would have charge of, Stricklandgate, where we met with members of the local invitation committee over lunch. It was great to see that one of that committee was the local Rural Dean, an indication of the strength of local ecumenical cooperation in Cumbria. After lunch we met with members from the church for a conversation (not an interview) which was wide-ranging and challengeing but which felt in no way intimidating (to me at least). In fact my overwhelming feeling afterwards was one of feeling 'at home' and 'comfortable' with the people there. We then set off to walk through the town to visit the other church in my (potential) charge, a small mission chapel known either as Fellside Methodist Church or The Job Pennington Memorial Chapel. Again, we felt at home here. Finally we drove out to one of the outlying villages in the Circuit, Levens, to meet another member of the Invitation Committee, before heading home after a long, tiring but positive day.
The whole day of the visit was very well organised, and it gave me and Jude space and time to take in just what the appointment would mean for us (albeit in outline). It was a very positive experience, and as we drove home we were very quickly of a mind as to how we would respond should an invitation be issued. We had been told that the Invitation Committee were to meet the following day at 4:00 p.m. At 4:30 my phone rang with an invitation to take up the post of Superintendent of the Kendal Circuit, an invitation I was delighted to accept.
To be honest, I can't wait! (And bookings for B&B are being taken!)