or Notes from a Parson in Transition
The title of this post was a sentence in a sermon I heard recently. Stylistically it jars with me, but usually when I get crotchety about such things they end up making me think carefully.
And so 'Jesus I want you as my SatNav' becomes a moment of pause, as I enter into the stage of real transition. Ministry at the moment is filled with stuff I'm going to stop doing soon, and making sure that - to the fullest extent - we are able to leave well the place we've been for the past five years. Enormous piles of paperwork, long meetings with the accountants, architects, etc, etc. beckon, in the hope that everything will be in a good state once July comes.
There's an oddness in announcing that you're off, four months before you even go. Folk seem to expect to see the back of you almost immediately, but I do generally recommend it. Leaving well, and leaving gently is what we have wanted to do, and some folk have even been kind enough to say they'll be sorry to see it happen. So that's nice. But we're beginning to say 'goodbye' to people we love very much, and that's always going to be tough.
A couple of conversations I've had with my superiors, however, have elicited 'what a shame' comments, and a mutter or two about something they'd have liked me to do, or where I might have been poached by. It's nice, in many ways, to know that in observing and responding to the call to go to Northampton, that there were other directions open, and that we weren't in any sense forced by either end of the equation. Northampton continues a nice personal trend of never having failed at being offered a job I've interviewed for (the one ecclesiastical post I didn't get involved not even making it to the interview stage), but those events have never seemed like a series of faits accompli. As with anything consequent on responding to a vocation to the sacred ministry, it is a process of attempting to discern the will of the Holy Spirit.
In a church that speaks gleefully of 'Talent Pools', 'Career Management', 'Reform and Renewal', there is an odd sense that while there are some who are having their 'careers' managed and developed, most are going from one job to another hearing very little of what their bishops and senior staff might refer to as 'strategic direction'. Bluntly, which priests and people do they need in which parishes and at what time. If I have any advice to Bishops and Bishops' Senior Staff, by no means confined to my own diocese, it is that you shouldn't keep that information to yourself. Think about your diocese in ten years, in twenty years, and who you are going to need and where. Then tell them. If you don't then their lives will continue to be 'SatNav'ed by their own perceptions of where the Holy Spirit is leading them, and all manner of things will continue to be well. But if the Spirit is saying something else to you, we need to know.