This has been a tough week. The journey that we have been on as a family and as a church has finally ended, and not with the outcome we had come to expect.
For the last few months I have been part of the application process for the job of pastoral leader (part-time) at my own church in The Scottish Borders. As each stage of the journey has unfolded I have experienced a time of uncertainty, followed by a time of action, followed by a time when I have deeply experienced God’s peace. Deciding to apply, filling in and submitting the application, all the waiting, preparing for the interview going to the interview, hearing that I was the preferred and endorsed candidate, waiting for the church to vote…at each stage the process of doubt, action and peace has been my experience.
In the end I failed to make the 80% ‘pass mark’ set by the interview group, and thus have been unsuccessful in my application at the final stage. It was unexpected. Those most closely involved in the process are baffled and, in some cases, battling with anger.
I feel surprisingly OK. If this had all happened even 3 years ago, I would have been devastated, but now (and I may yet run out of adrenalin and have a few sad days) I am disappointed, not just for myself, but for all of us, but fundamentally I’m fine.
In part, it’s because I realise that ‘it’s not all about me’…there may be more important things at work here. In the special sermon I preached just before the vote God seemed to be asking me to particularly emphasise the words of Romans 14:19 “So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” (New English Translation), during which I particularly warned of the dangers of competing personal agendas and of ‘majoring on minors’. As I chatted with a member of the leadership team yesterday he felt that the warning was timely and potentially being played out now.
I continue to feel a very real sense of God’s peace and the feeling that it’s not all over yet. What matters to me is that a group of people I love are not unduly broken or distressed by what must follow.
I’ve written extensively about Pilgrimage and the idea of life as pilgrimage (starting back in June 2010, I think). In particular I have been committed to the idea that travelling, actually being on the journey, is every bit as important as our arrival at a destination. This has certainly been true for this journey. As every waymark has been reached and successfully negotiated I have grown and changed. Things I thought I’d lost in the 16 years since I was last in pastoral ministry ‘officially’ have been restored to me.
This process has been good for me, and I’m glad I took the risk of starting it in the first place.
There will be others who will be confused, hurt and angry, and I will need to be there for them too, as the aftermath is worked out…I see a degree of irony in this!
The blog post about “Arriving” that I wrote back on 07/12/2010 has taken on new a relevant meaning. There has been an ending which we need to mourn, appreciate (if not understand) and resolve, but I also wonder what will be the new beginnings that open up as a result of that ending?