Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Stages of Ministry

I was thinking about what Eileen said about the stages of the Cycle of Ministry in our little meetings. They were strange, my training / coaxing / mentoring sessions. Sometimes we would take the works of Jurgen Moltmann into the Hall of Mirrors and have a theological reflection. On others, we'd go out on our Pastoral Cycles and visit the poor, needy and sick. Then Eileen would tell them if they didn't get off their backsides and do some real work, she'd report them to the DHS. This was why the Beaker Folk never had a shortage of volunteer workers in the Beaker Bazaar - and also explains the Swine Flu Outbreak of 2009.

But Eileen used to tell me about the way the Methodist 5-year ministry tenure  system would impact the life of the congregation. For a year, she said, the new Minister would do nothing new. They would leave things as they were. Just not being the last one was normally enough, during the first year.

And then the fifth year, she said, was tidying up loose ends, making lists of what belonged to the Manse and what was personal property, and saying goodbye. They would generally leave things as they were, for the fifth year.

But it was years 2-4 when the magic would happen. New patterns of worship, the possibilities of closing down chapels where the balcony was about to fall in, removing pews, replacing the Choir and organist with a hip-hop group - all this tended to happen in years 2-4.

And oddly, said Eileen, it was in years 2-4 that the previous incumbent would start to be revered. In year 1, it was too soon. The way that Old Mr Stiles had declared in Year 2 of his time that Jumble Sales were a work of the Dark One would be remembered. The comparison with new Mrs Jones, who merely left things to go on as they always had, would be favourable to the new woman.  But by Mrs Jones's Year 3, when she had introduced Taize and was talking about Mission, suddenly Mr Stiles's Year 5 - that year of immobility, sweet regrets, way-parting and farewell services - that was all anyone could remember. This timeline kind of sums things up...

The only solution, in Eileen's view, was to break the system. You should leave at ten minutes' notice, and start out like there was nothing to learn. That way you broke the congregations' circles of dependency, and could do something new.

Well, she went out with a bang, OK. And I had my Year 1 while she was still here. So I guess I can start smashing things up and remaking them to my own - I mean God's' - satisfaction straight away. What was it Solomon's son said when they all moaned about him? Eileen gave you Turkish delight, but I will give you acid drops? Something like that. Anyway they'd better all watch out. I don't know what I'm going to change, but I'm gonna change something, That is, after all, what I'm here for.


  1. Oh I remember that Year 2 feeling well - positively pregnant with possibilities if I could find enough energy and persuade enough people.

  2. You must avoid the trap of feeling pity for your parishioners, Charlii. Benevolent despots are always overthrown by the Young Turks(In my case, my sister got notions). Be a ruthless dictatrix from the start, and make sure each and every tealight has a patch of scorched earth around it. Speak loudly and carry a big stick (assuming Eileen absconded with the cricket bat).

  3. She did, but I always keep the hockey stick handy.


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