A new beginning signalled another move. So at the age of forty-eight I moved into my seventeenth home.
At the start all went well, but this was parish in which I had completed my first locum. So I must have done something right to be called back on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, after the usual honeymoon period, things started to turn sour, and I very quickly discovered the great gulf between my hopes and expectations, and theirs.
Now I had accepted the appointment on the basis that the people were willing to grow. Indeed, that they would let go of the past and try some new things to break the downward slide. Unfortunately, as time progressed, it became clear that there a group of very influential people were so wrapped up in their traditions and cultural expectations—and even their power—that the situation just wasn’t going to work. They may have told me that they wanted the parish to grow, but what they really meant was that they wanted more people to come and participate in the kind of church that they enjoyed.
So for me, the time that I spent in this parish was a bit of a spiritual struggle. There was me trying to uphold my view of God, and biblical values, whilst a small, but influential group were trying to uphold theirs. And the two views were quite different.
Fortunately for me, though, the parish was not all doom and gloom. For even in a dying church there is usually some spark of life. And this parish was no different. Indeed there were a few bright sparks who kept me going. And there were two specific things that helped me at the time.
The first was the knowledge that my ministry was about to change direction. In a sense that had begun whilst I was working at my third locum. Indeed, the idea that the bible needed to be rewritten or re-edited in some form to suit the twenty-first century reader had begun at that time. My preaching had obviously stirred some people to read their bibles from beginning to end. But invariably they got stuck half-way through the book of Exodus. So it became obvious to me, that people needed a bible they could read that included the whole text of the bible—not just a summary or a commentary—but was presented in a more twenty-first century way.
And at this point, not only did I feel the need for someone to do it, but I felt that God was telling me that I was the one. The second encouragement was that God sent me a helper. Indeed a helper who would be with me, who would encourage and be with me no matter what.
So with the combination of a parish which was unwilling to move on and grow, and the realisation that my ministry was about to change direction, I needed to move on. So that’s what I did—I moved again. This time to a place where six months later I was to be offered another appointment. However this time the appointment was part time. And this time it was with a parish that really was looking for a future. Indeed they agreed to a process of review, and willingly signed an agreement committing themselves to the process.
Now the appointment was for a fixed three-year term, with no option for an extension (to obviate deliberate delays in the process). Yes, there were pockets of resistance, and the process wasn’t helped by someone in the hierarchy of the church. Nevertheless there was a solid core who were willing to participate in the process, and as a consequence the review process was completed within the three-year fixed term.
Regarding the writing … Well it became clear to me, that even working part-time the book would take too long to complete. Indeed, that I would need to fully retire from parish ministry to complete the job. After all, part-time ministry was fine, but what part-time meant was being paid part-time, whilst working far more hours than had been agreed. In any event, it had always been my intention to fully retire after the three-years were up. So at the conclusion of this ministry I did retire. I was then in a position to fully pursue this very different form of ministry.
To be continued …
Posted: 24th February 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis