Simon Sutcliffe reflects on the changing patterns of ministry as he looks forward to September.
One of the great joys of being a minister is that you get the chance to diversify and grow in your chosen fields of interest. In my ministry I have been able to pastorally care for rural church communities, for middle class suburbs and in an urban city centre context. I have also been able to explore youth ministry, fresh expressions, church growth, training and education and lately emerging church and academia.
I have been lucky enough to have been a lay worker in the Methodist and Anglican Church, a youth worker for local authorities, a circuit minister, a circuit superintendent, a church planter and a pioneer minister.
In each case it has been important to locate what model or style of ministry resonates most closely with my experience. Lately, as a pioneer minister, I have felt the call of the wandering friar. Often I spend my time wandering around looking for moments of what I believe are God's activity (and that is always a personal opinion – others might see nothing of the divine in it!). When I see that activity, I decide to rest a while and eventually move on. It is a wonderful way to live and begins to make sense of the rather pointless endings of Paul's letters along the lines of, 'Say "Hi" to Pete and the gang and tell Gary I'll pop by the next time I'm in town.'
Well it seems my style/pattern of ministry has changed again! As many of you know, I am appointed as a pioneer mission leader with venture FX of the Methodist Church. I am now going part time with venture FX and have taken up another part time appointment as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at The Queen's Foundation, Birmingham. So basically I am working part time for venture FX and part time as a theological tutor at Queen's.
Those who have known me for a long time will know that this is a dream come true. I get to have my cake and eat it! I now get to push the boundaries of church and get to explore that academically.
I cannot overstate how excited I am about this appointment. For the romantics, this is everything I have dreamed of. For the working classes (which I am proud to have come from), this is everything I have worked for. For the theists, I feel completely blessed!
That's not to say I'm not daunted about the future. But for now I'm going to bask in the absolute joy that today I am a pioneer minster and theological educator.
As a colleague wrote to me: 'Roll on September!'