Yesterday, I described how I came to be a Methodist. I wrote that mostly from the American viewpoint because for the first 30 years of my life that was my encounter with Methodism! But whenever I meet someone new, I can usually count on the question, ‘How did you come to live over in Britain?’
Whilst in seminary, I read about the ‘British-American Ministry Programme’ (BAMP). American ministers freshly graduated from seminary could apply to spend a year as a circuit minister in The Methodist Church of Great Britain. I had always wanted to visit the UK, having grown up with a mother who was fascinated with British monarchical history and British comedy television. This looked like an even greater opportunity to spend a year! So, I asked April what she thought and she got excited as well.
In February 2004, I got an email from Methodist Church House telling me I had been appointed to the South Ribble Circuit of the North Lancashire District. I would serve two churches, Bamber Bridge and Trinity. I had no idea where any of these places were, but they sounded exciting. Bamber Bridge was due to tear down its building and build a new one on the same spot. The circuit wanted me there particularly to pastor them through the ‘wandering’ time without a building.
When I arrived in August 2004, the church had yet to move out of the building and wouldn’t do so until Boxing Day (26 Dec). The entire project was heavily delayed. After our first three months, I talked to April about staying another year to finish out why we came, to stay with the church through the ‘intermediary time’. I approached the circuit superintendent, who immediately said yes and started the process which would keep me for another year.
As the year progressed, April and I felt that we did not think our time in the British church was over. We loved the people
(from the churches and the staff) so much that we just couldn’t bear to leave yet. Also, my district chair, Stephen Poxon, like to quote a former Methodist president who said we are on the verge of another Pentecost. I wanted to be a part of that in some small way.
Unable to stay in our former circuit, we came to Blackburn and whilst smaller in staff and total membership, we grew by a church to three: Wilpshire, Mellor, and Langho. Settling into a new circuit and being more aware of what happens within the church nationally, the novelty rubs off a little. It’s a little like going to a few villages in England when everything is new. A Spar shop seems magical and quaint when you’ve never seen one. But, it becomes commonplace when you see one in EVERY village you go to and there is one down the street from where you live. The people who live in the area have been very welcoming, but it’s still different. It is a different form of ministry than what I am used to, and there likely needs to be give on both sides (but, being selfish, I probably focus more on how others need to change).
I was also simply unprepared for the shock of moving (I tried to tell myself that knowing that I would be moving around my life as a Methodist minister, I should be prepared. I did not take into account the emotional toil, and refused for a while to let myself acknowledge and work through it).
So, part of this writing out will hopefully help me to think through how I got here and where I am going. I am trying to separate out where is it that the novelty has rubbed off and where I truly need to think through issues.