By Rev Angy Long, Chair of District
This past few weeks have been pretty busy for me and others involved in putting together profiles to be submitted to the Stationing Matching Group which begins its work on Monday. Now for some of you that first sentence will read like complete gobbledygook. 'Profiles' and 'Stationing Matching Group' – 'What are they?' I hear some of you asking. Others might have some idea that this is to do with how the Methodist Church allocates its ministers to different parts of the country. Each year at about this time the ministers who are coming to the end of their appointments and the Circuits who know they are going to need a new minister put together an outline of who they are and either what sort of Circuit they think they'd be able to work well in, or what sort of minister they would like to welcome onto the team. Stationing Matching does pretty much what is says on the tin. It tries to match ministers with circuits in a way that both will be able to flourish and grow.
This year will be the first time I have ever been involved in Stationing at this level. Previously all I've ever had to do is write my own profile and wait for a phone call from my Chair of District to say can you go and visit such-and-such to see if it is like what they said on their profile? This time I am deeply involved in the discernment process of how to join up the various dots in the best way possible. It feels like quite a responsibility.
As I get ready to travel to Cliff College tomorrow for an early start on Monday I find myself reflecting on the language we use, that jargon in the opening sentence.
'Profiles.' Each minister and each Circuit has 2 sides of A4 in order to say something about themselves, their gifts, their hopes. It is just a profile, an outline, there is not the space to go into much depth. This is where the human element comes in. It would probably be quite straightforward for someone to design a computer programme which scanned the language of the 2 sets of profiles and came up with a percentage match, taking into account any geographical restrictions and the like. The computer could then churn out letters sending Rev A to Circuit Z. But there is more to it than this. There is the knowledge that The Chairs have of the people and places involved, the conversations and relationships that mean that this is done with prayerful care. These are not just profiles to be filled in with solid black ink to make a silhouette, these are portraits and landscapes to be painted in a whole variety of colours.
Then 'stationing.' A train station is rarely a destination in and of itself, unless you are a train spotter. It's the place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. So, the stations available this year are all only for a certain length of time, usually 5 years. Then the ministers will move on to somewhere new and another minister will, hopefully, arrive to spend a further period of time in that place. The whole of the Methodist Church is littered with this language of travelling. Churches are grouped into Circuits, which used to be the distance you could travel in one day on a horse, to get round to preach. The old symbol of the Methodist Church used to be a scallop shell, the symbol of a pilgrim, travelling to grow their relationship with God through different people and places. This itinerancy is difficult for ministers, their families and for the people in the churches. But staying too long can make us all comfortable and complacent and we run the risk of coming to a halt in our journey with and for God.
So your prayers for Stationing Matching would be greatly appreciated, for our discussions and discernment, for the ministers and their families, for the Circuits and churches. But perhaps this time also gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on what our profiles would look like, what gifts and hopes we have and how we might use them as we journey together with God in the world.
God bless, Angy
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