Something has happened. I want to share it with you, my bloggist friends. It is something I shared with our church this morning. I’ll start with the news and then try to explain the background.
I have been asked to become the Eastern Baptist Association’s third Regional Minister, covering the Southern Sector (most of Essex). The call has come loud and clear and Sally and I feel that it is right to accept it.
In the Baptist Union of Great Britain we don’t have Bishops we have Regional Ministers. In case you are wondering about this role, mission is the key priority that shapes and influences the work and activity. I will be working with about 60 churches in the sector: helping churches and Ministers to share their resources and work together for mutual benefit and the building up of the kingdom, strengthening local churches for growth and assist and supporting churches and Ministers in difficult and/or crisis situations. I will work alongside the other Regional Ministers in the Association to support all of the churches in the Association. There is a considerable amount more involved in the role, but it’s not possible to put it all here…
The EBA has advertised this post three times and on the previous two occasions did not appoint anyone for this post. On the previous two occasions I ignored the advertisements as I was sure it was not for me. This third time a number of different people whom I trust and whose spiritual perceptiveness I value told me that I should consider whether God was calling me to the role. Initially I laughed it off, but as more people independently said the same thing to me I started to wonder whether God might be speaking to me through them.
I don’t want to leave the church in Colchester. I love these people and the calling God placed on my life to be one of their Ministers so I pushed the idea away. And every time the idea came back I had a list of very good reasons about why it was wrong. As I prayed, however, God gave answers to the reasons and eventually I realised that I might be behaving like Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) – making excuses because of my own personal preferences when in fact God might be calling me.
Reluctantly I put my name forward for the post. I even wrote on my application that I was applying reluctantly. I have carried on in Colchester as if it was not going to happen – hoping that I would not be leaving. All the time I was praying that God would say: “Thank you for being willing to apply but I really want you to stay in Colchester.” Until it became certain I did not mention it because it would have unnecessarily unsettled people. Just to make sure of this (and as a measure of my own reticence) I told God that my application for this role was a ‘one shot deal’ – if, as I hoped, this was not what he wanted me to do I was not planning to move anywhere else.
I was surprised to be invited to an interview and on Friday 30th May, with another candidate, I spent the day with the interview panel. It was a rigorous day. During the day it dawned on me that God might well be calling me to take on this role. He confirmed that it was a role I could do in his strength and by the end of the day I felt that if he was calling me I could not say what Moses said at the burning bush: ‘O Lord, please send someone else’ but should accept.
That Friday evening I received a phone call from the EBA Moderator and was told that the panel unanimously felt I was the right person for the role and invited me to take the post. This has subsequently been confirmed by the EBA Council. So it’s a bittersweet moment: I have a deep sense of eager anticipation and excitement about Gods’ call for the future and at the same time deep sadness about leaving the church in Colchester.
I accepted the invitation and since I have done that I have felt an immense sense of God’s affirmation and peace about the decision, although telling the church today was one of the most difficult things I have had to do in my ministry. The previous week I told our Deacons and Officers and my colleague, Lynsey, and they have been very encouraging about it.
I appreciate that this has probably come as quite a surprise to you. It has to me. I was not able to tell the church last weekend as it would have distracted people on a day when we celebrated Simon’s baptism (see ‘plugging away’ bloggage). Today was the first opportunity to tell the church. Last weekend the EBA Assembly was told this that an appointment has been made, but not who. My name was embargoed until after our morning service today so the church could know first. (I’ve not been embargoed before!)
There are a lot of practical issues to be sorted out. I am envisaging taking up the EBA role at the start of November this year. However as a family we will need to remain in Colchester until after our daughter has finished her A Levels next summer. We hope to rent the manse from our church until then. I will be able to ‘commute’ in the role from here for that time as the Southern Sector starts almost as soon as you hit the A12 and head towards London.
As a family and as a church we would appreciate your prayers over the coming weeks and months.
Be blessed, be a blessing