Let’s get this on the table straight away: I am really excited about my new job. My friend Steve said to me in the pub last night: “It’s God’s will, mate.” Without trying to sound arrogant, I believe that. In fact it would be awful to start working for the Church in such a role if it was outside God’s will.
So from the start of September I go from being a pioneer minister in Cornwall to being the Head of the Mission & Advocacy cluster of the Methodist Church central office team, based in London. It’s about as big a shift as you can imagine: from planning my own day in one of the most beautiful parts of the world to being part of a group of people who depend on working closely with each other to help the Church speak well of Jesus.
From the age of 17 – when I began preaching – I have had a nagging sense that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. Urging the Church, or chapels, to dare to reach out for God’s best vision has been a part of my DNA and, I would argue, part of Methodism. It’s often meant challenging people to lay down part of a traditionalism (not tradition) that has keep some of the Church locked in a dying past.
So new is always best then – well, not necessarily.
The heart of everything that’s good about Christian faith – everything that grows – has always been community.
The heart of everything that’s good about pioneering ministry – everything that grows – has always been community.
The heart of everything that good about the future of the Church – everything that will grow – has always been community.
For the past three years, Joy and I have lived in a small village of just 400 homes and about 1,000 people. It’s the first place where we have really become a part of the community beyond church: joining the panto society, being part of the Sunday night pub quiz and where I’ve become “our minister”, even to people who have no intention of going to chapel.
Last night I was in the pub, where we’ve held Lent film groups and village Harvest and Christmas events, and the only pub where Joy and I have ever sat at the bar, feeling quite at home.
One of the regulars, who had heard I was leaving, came up and said: “I’m really sorry you’re going. There are good people and GOOD people and you are GOOD people. I hate God but I really like you and you’ll always be welcome back.”
That’s what will make it so hard to go, even though we are sure it’s the right thing. There are great new things ahead – we believe that firmly. It’s a really exciting and challenging time for the people called Methodist and a thrilling time to be joining the Connexional Team.
We know, however, that a chunk of our hearts will be left in Tregony where God is at work through people who would be surprised to realise they are a part of his plan.