Ministers on the move

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An article taken from the latest 'Connexion magazine to help some of us understand the 'Stationing process' a little better. Copies available in the circuit office or , possibly, your local church

Ministers on the move

Stationing is central to Methodism: District Chairs, the Revds Jennie Hurd, Richard Hall and Helen Cameron explain

"Are you moving again?" asked an old Anglican friend. "Honestly! You Methodists! Can't keep still for five minutes!" You may think he had a point.

It is characteristic of Methodism that ministers are connexionally stationed to appointments, with the expectation of moving on after a time under the system of 'itinerancy'. Usually, ministers who feel called to move make this known, and circuits seeking ministers do the same. On behalf of the Conference, prayerful work is done annually to match them, with the heartfelt intention that the right people will be matched with the right appointments. Stationing is not an easy process. It requires patience and trust from all involved. It makes great demands of everyone.

Why do it, then? Why put ourselves through this system? As a practice, it goes back to the days of Methodism's founder, John Wesley. For Wesley, it was a vital mechanism for mission and evangelism. Ministers were (and are) sent where needed, as an expression of what it is to be part of the people of God, who are all called to journey with Christ. Jesus calls us to follow him, but he also sends us to do his work, as the very end of Matthew's Gospel tells us. Furthermore, for Methodists, the stationing of ministers is an expression of being a connexion. Ministers are ordained to serve the whole Church, whose ministry does not belong to just one group of people but to all. At best, ministers equip and enable the Church's mission, wherever the need is greatest.

The issues we currently face
Ministers and circuit appointments vary enormously. This diversity is something we celebrate and is a gift. Getting the right combination (or match) of minister and appointment requires considerable effort and wise, prayerful discernment. Getting the stationing wrong can be destructive, and does not lead to the flourishing of God's people or ministers. A visit after a stationing matching round is an important part of the discernment process and requires open-hearted exploration between the minister and the circuit. God can surprise us all but during the process we have to be honest with each other about hopes and needs.

The stationing process requires us to be flexible. At times in the life of a minister the need to support elderly parents at a distance can be an anxiety. The needs of a partner's employment or education of dependents can sometimes require careful handling. However, sometimes we talk as though only Methodist ministers move location frequently or are sent to new locations and that simply isn't the case. Great care is taken, but clearly a minister can only be matched or directly stationed to where appointments are available and where the mission of the Church requires a minister to resource and enable the ministry of all in a particular place.

We have fewer ministers to station than we have circuits seeking ordained ministers. We need more candidates for ordained ministry and a more creative approach to ministry teams of lay and ordained. We also need a willingness to do new things and serve in new contexts.

Stationing: how it works
Deacons, including probationer deacons, are stationed directly by the Warden of the Methodist Diaconal Order. Probationer presbyters are stationed directly too.
Other presbyters are stationed after a matching process.

The stationing matching group (SMG) is made up of all the District Chairs, a number of lay Stationing Representatives and connexional officers. Presbyters and circuits, in consultation with their District Chair, are asked to prepare profiles on a standard template that describe the ministry offered and sought. The circuit profiles are then scrutinised by a small group to determine which are the most critical to fill first.

From these profiles, presbyters and circuit Invitation Committees are asked to produce an indicative list of five appointments/presbyters that they believe best match their needs. The District Chairs then present these lists in the context of the SMG meetings in November, December and January.

When the SMG meets there is knowledge in the room of every circuit and presbyter in the process. Circuits are matched with presbyters one by one and to ensure fairness these are considered according to a random selection process. At this stage all matches are provisional allowing for a further process of discernment; no one is considered matched until every presbyter available is matched.

At the end of each SMG, when matches are finally agreed, presbyters are asked to visit circuits. Together, circuits and presbyters discern whether their match is a good one or not. When a match does not hold the presbyter and circuit both re-enter the process. For those circuits and presbyters not matched in any of the first three rounds of SMG, a smaller group consults on a monthly basis to continue the matching process until the Conference takes place in June.

Deacons and probationer presbyters and deacons visit their circuits after being directly stationed to them.

Ultimately it is the Conference, meeting annually, which agrees to the stationing of all ministers.

Steve Swan
"I received a phone call during the second round of stationing matching in December to ask if I would be prepared to look at a critical appointment which needed filling following the death of a minister in the active work.

When I reflected on my call to serve God and the Church wherever needed, I agreed to explore the possibility. The informal conversations and information gained during my visit to the circuit that weekend proved to be a positive experience. I notified my District Chair that I was willing to go. I was then asked to move mid-year as the need had become more urgent.

It is a joy to be in a place where I am meeting a vital need and fulfilling the call that God has put on my life."

Vida Foday
"As a widow, family support means a lot to me. Moving to the High Wycombe Circuit in the Northampton District was good for keeping me in contact with my family in West London.

The move has been challenging due to the increased number of churches in my pastoral charge and the rural setting, which I have not been used to. However, this experience
has taught me that God is bigger than our challenges. I have been overwhelmed by the welcome, love and support given me by the District Chair, Superintendent, circuit ministers, leadership team, supernumeraries and the circuit congregations."

Deacon Alison McCauley
"I was a bit apprehensive how the direct stationing process would work for me and my family (including a son with special needs). I finally drew up a profile and dared to dream dreams of what could be new and exciting times ahead. I hadn't dared to dream for myself as big as the Order did: so it was a privilege to be matched with my new circuit — Melton Mowbray. And all those little things I had dreamed of seem to be here and part of what looks like a very exciting appointment."

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