Some of those I have only just started to get to know here at Wesley are already thinking about leaving. It’s nothing I’ve done, but part of being an ordained minister (or training to be one) in the Methodist Church. This is because we commit ourselves to an itinerant ministry. For some it is more itinerant than others, but for all of us being formed for ordination includes a willingness to be itinerant. (There have been discussions about having non-itinerant ministers within British Methodism, I won’t go into them here, just face the reality as it stands now.) One of my new friends finds out this week where they will be by this time next year, since they are a Student Deacon and the Diaconate stations all its members at the same time, students or not. Our current Principal is also involved in this process, since he is returning to Circuit ministry before retirement. Meanwhile, the rest of my new friends who are in their final year here are beginning to meet with that same-said Principal to discuss possibilities when they are stationed as Probationary Presbyters in January.
While I, and my friends within the first year of study here, are not going through this process I do not think any of us can fail to be affected by what is going on around us. It is a clear reminder, in our first term here, that this is not a place of permanency. We are here to continue a process of discernment and formation before being sent out into the world to do what we are called to do – minister to the church and to the world, as Deacons and Presbyters in the Methodist Church. It is a joy and privilege to be a student here in Cambridge, as I have said elsewhere. I love being in Cambridge, I love being a student (despite the almost impossible busy-ness it sometimes involves – I really should be writing an essay plan on the nature of the Davidic narratives at the moment!), I love the intellectual challenge of subjects like Doctrine, Ethics, Hebrew, Christian Art. I am, however, reminded by being surrounded by people preparing for the next stage of their journey that my purpose here is not simply academic challenge, but preparation for a different task. This is a necessary stop on an ongoing journey. It is a staging or base camp for a far greater and longer expedition. What I learn here, what I discover here, what I develop here will affect how I fulfill my true calling – not to be a student (as much as I love academia) but to be a Minister of Word & Sacrament to the people of God, and in particular those people known as Methodists. It is a daunting prospect, but also an exciting one – and based on my limited experience so far, and what I have been told of others’ experiences, I am confident I will be sent out well prepared.
And at some point someone out there is going to ask me my thoughts on why the stories of David were written the way they were so I better get back to that essay plan! While I do, my friends and colleagues (those here and those elsewhere) who over the coming days and months will discover where the church is sending them, will remain firmly in my thoughts and prayers.