It’s difficult to locate the source of a river. We can track across the land, looking hard for those signs where the water starts to emerge from the hill. Possibly only once the flow of the water has formed into an audible stream, or see the glint from rays of sunshine reflecting from its surface, can we notice the water.
I found that I can now see where my journey, my ‘calling’, started but only in retrospect.
That time when an RAF Chaplain asked whether I had considered a career as a Vicar; that time when another minister said the same – and I dismissed them both as ridiculous. I was content with my career in the RAF, my career was about to take off (sorry)!
Those days when I flew on RAF aircraft in armed conflict situations gave me moments to see how people react when faced with critical situations. How we may learn to laugh at intense imminent danger, putting that screen up to protect, distancing ourselves, from that prospect of losing our life or the lives of others. I can now see how I ‘coped’ – giving myself coping strategies to get through those dire times.
My time in schools loving the teaching but being enthusiastic about caring for others. As like every teacher we are also a social care worker, tending to the needs of the Form and classes on a day-to-day basis. Working with the parents and carers to ‘hold together’ the children: it was challenging but so rewarding,… when it all worked out. It did work many times, but you are left wondering what of those situations which didn’t work?
A key moment in realising that calling came through a pastoral counselling course at St John’s in Nottingham which opened my eyes to more ways we can support others. The Street Pastor training and the working closely with the Christian Nightlife Initiative (www.sa-cni.org.uk) helped me to understand the pleasures and pitfalls of those out on the town for a variety of reasons.
What life situations can you look back upon and see that God is preparing you for the future?
Then God spoke to me.
My Minister wondered whether I had heard of the Diaconal Order in the Methodist Church? err No
I looked carefully at their statement, a specification, a tick list of what may be required. It was like a hand fitting into a glove. It didn’t fit perfectly – why would it? But it gave me such a great interest in finding out more- such excitement, a buzz.
After speaking again to my Minister, the Superintendent popped around for a chat. It didn’t go well. I may not be suited and what of my current role as a teacher? Reflecting back now I can see what they were saying: we can play such a role in our current job, do we need to move towards a ministerial role?
I then attended a Circuit Interview, in front of 25 people drawn from various churches in our local circuit where I could give my testimony. I couldn’t believe it when I nearly broke down, explaining how my family had helped me to understand greater truths about family love. They permitted me to proceed to the next stage.
I wondered afterwards what evidence they would need to say No? I gave 3-4 minutes of testimony – any negative reaction would have to come from their past knowledge of my work in the circuit or from the Spirit.
The interview from the psychotherapist lasted 90 minutes. I was busting for the loo. We had had to drive for an hour and we had hoped to find somewhere local prior to the interview – nothing: rural villages and early morning had conspired to force us to cross our legs. Nevertheless, I ‘looked young for my age‘, and was ‘sincere‘, so she must have seen something positive in me! Again upon reflection, in my opinion, the key aspect they were looking for was a strategy for processing issues which we face on life’s journey.
How do we cope with guilt, blame, ‘disasters’ and could we explain this clearly?
The District (a geographical area formed of Circuits) interview consisted of a 9 minute presentation with follow-up questions; two 15 minute triangle* interviews (very Trinitarian) where they considered Methodist history and theology, my experience and how I would deal with various situations; and then an interview with all 12 members of the ‘board’ on any issue that felt appropriate – it was universalism….
Finally I had to go to the Candidate Selection Centre interview, a 24-hour interview session, starting at 3pm. Here we undertook three 15 minute triangle interviews, a group development task and a final 20-25 minute interview with the board drawn principally from members of the Diaconal Order.
I would never say that it was gruelling as all of the interviewers were all so lovely, caring and considerate.
O0ps!, forgot to mention the 8000 word portfolio on Methodist theology and reflections on our life history and on specified books. How could I forget that! As a mathematics teacher, writing essays had long been forgotten!
Now I am awaiting to start the formal pre-ordination training to be a Methodist Deacon and a member of the Methodist Diaconal Order. Can’t wait!
So I can now see the start of my calling but only upon reflection. The seed that was sown so many years ago has now sprouted and, I hope, blossom.
I’ll explain more about what an Order means to me, and how God has been moving over these months/year in the next post.
Thanks for reading!
* Triangle interviews are where you are questioned by 2 members of the interview panel.