In a recent blog ("Strength in weakness") I mentioned our current state of uncertainty in that we knew that in summer 2012 we will be leaving Doncaster, but we didn't then know where we would be going. Now we do!
For 4 days last week all the Methodist District Chairs (the Methodist equivalent of Bishops) met together to make decisions about my future and the future of about 120 of my ministerial colleagues. They had before them a list of Ministers who will be moving in 2012 and also a list of vacancies in churches around the UK. Mainly because of family considerations, we had asked that wherever we were sent it should be somewhere within 2 hours drive of Nottingham (we don't have any particular connection with Nottingham, but it seemed to be a fairly central part of the country!) Although that ruled out some vacancies, is still covered a large geographical area.
Sue and I, and many of our friends, were doing a lot of praying over those days, that ultimately we would be sent to the place where God wanted us to be. I didn't feel particularly anxious, but I was eager to discover the result of the deliberations. Last Thursday evening I received a phone call from our District Chair who informed me that I had been matched with the Leicester West Circuit [in Methodist parlance, a Circuit is a group of churches in a particular area]. The following morning we received a phone call inviting us to travel down to Leicester to meet the folk there and visit the churches. So on the Saturday we visited the Methodist churches at Glenfield, Markfield and New Parks. In each church we met some of the people there, asking and answering questions.
Over lunch we met the Circuit Superintendent (lead Minister), then went back to one of the churches for a final meeting, this time with representatives from the three churches and some of the Circuit leadership team. It was a long and rather tiring day, but we enjoyed meeting the people in Leicester and seeing the area. We left it that Sue and I would do some more thinking and praying about the situation, as would the folk in Leicester.
During the course of the following 24 hours, Sue and I had a growing sense that this was indeed the place to which God was calling us; I felt a very real sense of excitement and anticipation about the future. However, we didn't yet know what the Leicester people thought about the matter! On Sunday evening we received a phone call from the Circuit, inviting me to become Minister in the Leicester West Circuit, and of course I said yes!
I still think that the Methodist system of moving Ministers around is rather strange, and in one sense I'm amazed how it seems to work. At the same time, I know that God is in control, and I am convinced that we are going to the place he is preparing for us. And one very great added bonus is that our first grandchild, who is due to be born in early January 2012, will be living only about 15 minutes away from our new home in Leicester - thank you God!
Inevitably some of our thoughts over the next few months will be towards our future in Leicester. Yet we know that there is still a great deal for us to do here in Doncaster. We know also that when the time comes for us to leave the area, and the people who we have come to know and love, it will be very hard. Ultimately, though, the best place to be is always where God wants you to be.