My Ordination at Coventry Methodist Central Hall on 29th June 2014 marks a major milestone in my journey of faith as I have sought to discern and respond to God’s call on my life. It is, however, by no means the end of the journey – indeed some would suggest that it is actually the beginning – but as with most journeys the real beginning and end points are actually difficult to pinpoint.
I remember announcing to my family as an 11-year old that I might want to be “a vicar” when I was older. My parents smiled kindly and told me to eat up my greens. As I grew older this changed to a pursuit of a medical career, a career which lasted precisely as far as the first year of training. Another change of direction – teaching Maths; at least this one lasted 20 years.
While teaching Maths I was encouraged to train as a Local Preacher in the Methodist Church. I began the course in 1999 with my Note to Preach, and eventually staggered to the finishing line of Admission to Local Preacher in April 2008. During my time as a Local Preacher ‘On Trial’ I sensed an increasing call to preach full-time, and several folk in my congregations encouraged me in a similar way. By this time, the Maths teaching career was going well – Head of a Department rated ‘Outstanding in all respects’ by Ofsted, and starting to play an increasing role in the national as well as local world of Mathematics education. Was I being called out of a job I loved?
A chat to my minister led me on to the next stage – the building up of a comprehensive Candidating Portfolio while I continued the explorations and testing in a process called EDEV “Extending Discipleship, Exploring Vocation” which consisted of monthly meetings with fellow explorers at our local EDEV centre in Muswell Hill. Gradually I was becoming more aware that this was where God was calling me, and I became more peaceful about the idea of ending my teaching career.
The next stages comprised a long round of interviews and detailed conversations. I had to make a presentation to my Circuit Meeting in September 2009 and submit myself to their vote of approval – a secret ballot of unanimous “Yes” papers which I have kept to this day. Then followed Self-Evaluations, Psycho-Analytical Reporting, Reflective Essays and Superintendent Profiles – all contributing to this ever-expanding file called the Candidating Portfolio. The process continued with a presentation and round of interviews before the London District panel, and with their nod, the journey continued on to the final interviews (residential) before the Connexion.
A seemingly long wait followed before I received my decision in the post in April 2010 – that the Connexion affirmed my sense of vocation and was therefore willing to enrol me for training. By this time I had resigned my teaching post (in fact I resigned in April 2009 to give my Head plenty of notice!) and left teaching in August 2010. That Autumn saw Kathleen and I move up to Durham, where I trained at Durham University’s St John’s College, in the Wesley Study Centre. As a mature student I had to complete the degree course in just two years; throw in a new arrival to the family called Hannah and I wonder how I managed to pass at all!
Eventually, however, in January 2012, a summons to my Tutor who revealed that I had been stationed to “The Sankey Valley Circuit” – we Googled it and found out that I would be living here in Lymm. The Station then began here on 1st September 2012, and with it the beginning of Probation. Two years of study, supervision and mentoring later I appear a second time before the Annual District Probationers’ Committee to be told that my Probation period had been satisfactorily completed and that I was officially “Recommended for Ordination”. One more stage, however – appearing before Synod to receive their vote of approval. That completed, the ball is finally passed back to Connexion.
On Sunday 29th June I am first “Received Into Full Connexion” by Conference in the morning. My status then changes from “Probationer” to “Ordinand” – a title which is mine until the Ordination that afternoon, after which I am a Methodist Presbyter. That title is for life, received formally into the discipline of the Methodist Church.