A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
A step in a new direction
As I start as MET’s new Development Worker I look back on my ministry so far, and forwards to the exciting challenges ahead. This year’s Methodist Conference marked the 20th anniversary of my Ordination. It was significant to attend the Ordination Service at Plymouth Central Hall and alongside the ordinands to be reminded of my calling and anointing for Presbyteral ministry. In my two appointments, I have followed a theme of “Going for Growth”, discipleship shaped for mission. My ministry has encouraged people to grow deeper into God through relevant worship, personal prayer and Bible reading, small groups and prayer meetings; grow deeper in fellowship through pastoral care and relationships with other churches; and, grow wider into the community. By the grace of God, memorable events have been replanting a church in a new community centre in Colshaw; redeveloping Knutsford Methodist Church and Community Centre; and, being involved in circuits exploring fresh ways of ministering to their local communities in suburbia, market town, village and hamlets. I have also enjoyed mentoring students from Hartley Victoria College, 3 probationers and guiding 7 people through the candidating process into training for ministry.
The question arises, “Why leave circuit ministry?”
The answer is in the words of Bill Hybels, “Holy Discontent.” In this book, Hybels describes the process of coming to a point where you realise that God is “unsettling you” and preparing you for “something more.” It began to happen at ECG 2010. I remember a conversation between Ashley and Moira Cooper with Karen and myself where we discussed there was a cry within our hearts for “More Lord.” God was calling each of us to step in a new direction. The previous evening’s celebration had challenged Karen and I to prepare to move on to a new work. There was a sense of there being “something more” but not knowing what. There followed a “time of shaking”, when God reordered our lives and priorities. Conversations with Keith Davies and Tom Stuckey, suggested that although the time was not right just then, God was clearing the way for a new season of ministry.
During this time, MET began to formulate the role of MET Development worker. An idea which we have later been informed was sown by Donald English many years before. I was busy guiding the process, encouraging support and in the 2011 AGM encouraging people to respond to the advert. That evening in the celebration at ECG, following a conversation with another minister going through a similar process of seeking discernment for future ministry, suddenly I experienced God speaking deep within my heart to apply for the role. This inevitably threw the executive into turmoil as I withdrew from the process of leading the project. Sue Dunstan led the process of receiving applications, interviews and associated administrative work, ably assisted by members of the executive and other members of MET. On being the successful candidate, I went before the Stationing Advisory Committee and gained permission to take the post from September 2012.
The last year has been one of concluding a 14 year ministry in Knutsford Methodist Church, the wider community and county of East Cheshire. Yet having now gone through the emotional farewell process and moving home, I look forward to the future of developing MET and encouraging discipleship throughout the Methodist Church.
In his letter, John Wiltshire describes how MET is seeking to re-dig the wells of our particular emphasis within the church. I will certainly seek to do this as I meet with MET members throughout the Connexion. However, my role is to develop the network of support of people for their ministry in local churches and communities. People have made it clear that MET must do more than prepare a magazine, host a number of national conferences and influence the Connexion. There is a need to encourage people to meet in Districts and Regions for fellowship. The challenge has already been taken up by a number of circuits as the diary above indicates. It may be that an event for preachers, leadership teams or a teaching event, celebration or prayer event may not only bring MET members together but also help MET to resource the wider church. Fellowship and encouragement for some may be the means of developing MET amongst new people and a younger generation. The task is also to develop the prayer aspect of MET in praying for renewal within the Methodist Church and revival in communities. We will also be working within the wider fellowship of the Methodist Church, developing links with partner groups both within the Methodist Church and in other denominations. I will gladly represent MET at Synods and Conferences where I can inform people of the work of MET and encourage people to participate in MET, the largest independent group within Methodism.
I was commissioned at the MET event at the Methodist Conference, which was itself something of a step in a new direction as we moved from our traditional lecture to a celebration. I was greatly encouraged by the words spoken by Rev John Wiltshire, a friend from College who is Acting Chair of MET between 1st September and 31st January. The formal induction allowed me to respond to a call to work and pray for a much wider congregation than I am used to – the MET members across the country. Prayers with the laying on of hands were offered by Margaret Parker, Pete Pillinger and Phil Meadows.
We also experienced a rare event - a short sermon from Paul Smith! Paul preached on Acts 13 where Paul and Barnabas were “set apart” for the work of encouragement, teaching and establishing the church on the first missionary journey. Little did Paul know that God had used that passage to encourage me to seek this appointment. It was one more encouragement that I am in the right place.
Please may I take this opportunity to encourage you to stand with MET in this new venture in several ways:
- Offer Prayer for myself and Karen as we begin a new style of ministry and for MET to grow numerically, in the support we offer one another, and in the influence we have within the Methodist Church.
- Offer Invitations to your Synod, Leadership Team, Local Preachers’ Meeting, Weekend Away, Prayer Gathering etc. etc. to share the ministry of MET in very practical ways.
- Offer Financial Support as MET takes this innovative step in ministering the wider Connexion.
After 22 years of circuit ministry, God has called me step in a new direction. I have to hear afresh what I have always said to others, “God equips those he sends.” This ministry is a step of faith for us all.
At the age of eighteen, my call to ministry centred around two passages. One was Jeremiah 1:4-10, where, like Jeremiah before him, God took a shy teenager and called him to ministry. At that stage, I believed it was to be a missionary. I applied to and received a place at the Birmingham Bible Institute. On the day I was to go, the local council revealed they could not offer a grant for such a course. I was devastated. My youth leader came round and shared the reading we had both read that morning. It was Genesis 22, when God called Abraham to be willing to offer his son upon the altar. My youth leader explained that God had asked me to lay down my life as an offering to him. One day God would call me to ministry but not yet. I went to Chester College, received my note to preach and more importantly the gift of Karen who became my wife. In London, whilst living at Chester House, Muswell Hill, being accredted as a local preacher in what was then the Highgate circuit, I worked in Royal Mail ending up as Head of Finance for the West London Letter District. It was then God called me into the Methodist Church for Presbyteral ministry. I later realised that because I was willing to lay everything down at 18, at 28 I found it possible to lay a career down to pursue God’s calling upon my life. Now much later Karen and I are called to step in a new direction, trusting that God will go with us.
Thank you for supporting MET in this new venture. Thank you for supporting Karen and me as we move into a new lifestyle and ministry. Thank you for the support MET, and its predecessors, have given me throughout my ministry. I now seek to do the same and encourage people to be released to serve God.