Well I finally sat down today and read through the Ordination Service in the Methodist Worship Book, although I received the retreat information containing instructions to read and pray it through much earlier this year I have been avoiding doing so. It all seemed a little impossible and far off, but it dawned on me this morning that it is now only a month away...
One month left of a long journey, and although the leg of the journey towards ordination forms only a part of the journey of my life it has been a long time coming. It was eight years ago that I made the decision to explore this calling, I'd been working as a Lay Worker in Norfolk and knew that my own commitment to the work needed not to be deeper for that does no justice to the fantastic work that so many Lay Workers do, but it needed to be different somehow.
I attended the initial interviews in Norwich, and honestly though that I'd totally blown it, some of the questions were tough, but to my surprise I received a unanimous vote. It was to be the first of many unanimous votes and oddly that is something I really struggled with. I guess that to have your calling affirmed is an invitation to step through a door, sometimes it is easier to turn away and lick your wounds, to be a victim than it is to step into something new because something within you has been recognised.
I began training with ERMC, first came two years of Foundation Training, two years training alongside folk mostly Anglicans who knew that they were training for Ordained Ministry whilst my own task was to explore my calling was tough at times. The two years were very valuable however, and affirmed for me not only a call to Presbyteral Ministry but also to that Ministry within the Methodist Church, training ecumenically brought up many opportunities to say"this is why I am a Methodist."
The two years passed, and the folk I began training with were entering their final year, for me there were more interviews and following another one of those unanimous votes two more years of training. Perhaps one of the more difficult times in this was saying "goodbye" to some of the folk I began my journey with, to attend their Ordination Services (as they were ordained as Anglican Deacons) knowing that mine was still only a possibility and still four years in the future.
Part of this is because I chose to train part- time, it would not have been right on a practical level to ask my almost adult family to move into a Theological College, nor was it right for me to leave them behind for half the week. It meant that I trained and worked as a Lay Worker, that I wrote essays alongside the practical work and for me that was hugely beneficial. When I was Stationed in September 2009 I already had extensive experience of funerals, and baptisms, I was used to preaching and leading worship every week, but I was not prepared for the difference that having your name on the notice board and being called the Minister made!
I have enjoyed my time as a Probationer in the Snaith Selby and Goole Circuits, it has not all been a bed of roses but it has been good. In March when the Probs committee met they recommended to Ministerial Synod that I should proceed to Ordination, Synod agreed and I shared my testimony at District Synod a couple of weeks ago.
BUT it still does not seem real somehow, for I am aware that in myself I am not worthy, it is by the grace of God that I have followed this call, and I will need his grace to continue. I am grateful for the words of wisdom from one of my tutors at Wesley House who suggested that perhaps those of us who are called to ordained ministry are called in our weaknesses to a discipline that we need. A discipline that calls us beyond ourselves to grapple with the scriptures, to listen to the world and those we are called amongst and to bring them all together through word and sacrament and prayer.
As I prepare for ordination I am aware that God has called my jar of clay self to be a minister in his church, to seek to love and to serve it, to challenge and dare I say to equip it. That I am a woman in my late 40's does not seem to matter, and even though I find that challenging a quick read through the Bible reveals a multitude of unlikely folk who were called in different ways.
So here I stand, unlikely and unworthy, and yet in his hands I am transformed by grace!