A Summer sunny afternoon needed a ‘thinking walk’, as Winnie the Pooh called them. To be honest though, it was more of a ‘ranting walk’.
As our churches emerged from the intensity of the pandemic restrictions, the criticisers and complainers had gone back to normal too. Whether lay or ordained (and we have both in our house) being a minister is not always halos and wings – indeed there are plenty who make sure one is regularly tilted or clipped.
My thoughts ranged the full spectrum from resigning as a lay minister to discerning what God might be calling me on to.
And of course, God knew what he was doing more than I did – and how often I am grateful for that. For just after returning home, in comes the weekly newsletter from the Diocese of Exeter (that part of the Church of England in which we live). ‘Voluntary Chaplain wanted for South West Ministry Training Course’. (SWMTC trains people for both lay and ordained ministry.)
Oooh… that sounds good. That sounds very good. That even sits of the edge of excitement… (I don’t do excitement).
I’d not been looking to do any kind of formal voluntary work but as a lay minister, clergy spouse, long-term listener of people and with an almost equally long-standing passion for supporting those in ministry, it seemed a good fit.
Discerning God’s call often involves letting something ‘sit’ and then, after a while, sharing it with others. I did both. Application and interview followed. My first interview for 18 years… but God was good (as were the interviewees). I felt seen for who I am which was an unexpected and welcome blessing.
Even more of an unexpected and welcome blessing was that I was offered the position!
God’s call was clear. I have not felt so sure about something in quite the same way for a while: all the same it was still a surprise!
The role involves attending a couple of residential training weekends each term together with an Lent/Easter school. To be there with two other Chaplains accompanying those in training: companions on a journey. It is not a smooth path but if by fellow travelling I can help remove a few stones, there will be much joy in the journey also.
When I trained to be a lay minister some twenty years ago, I felt that was bringing together my then previous experience of church life and faith. This new calling provides a similar ‘bringing together’ of the skills and experience God has granted me. What a honour and a privilege.
I often find it helpful to think back and see how the different threads of life are brought together. Perhaps you feel the same? What patterns do you see in your life? What skills and experiences has God given you that have developed or been used throughout it?
Maybe take some time to listen and reflect on the words of a song which, for me, represents all there is to say about our openness to God’s calling on our lives:
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
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I, the Lord of sea and sky by Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) © 1981 Daniel L. Schutte & New Dawn Music