I have just read this weeks Methodist Recorder and was drawn to read a letter from Mike Bossingham on the topic of the itinerant ministry of ministers within Methodism.
I have to say I found the letter quite interesting and have a great deal of sympathy with the points made in the letter.
Like many of our members I suppose I do have some reservations about a change from itinerant to a more permanent style of ministry, as I realise that there have been and possibly always will be situations where there are square pegs in round holes, but conversely I recognise that the five year timespan can be rather limiting and that ministers may not have really got into the full swing of their ministry.
I was involved in the re-invitation process this year and felt it was a rather unpleasant process, and although it was done in accordance with the guidelines it seemed to be a very rushed and almost impersonal system.
I would have thought there was a better way of doing this and surely there must be a better way of dealing with the stationing than the system we have, but then I suspect some of the best minds in Methodism have looked at this in some depth and not it seems been able to come up with a better way.
I think I would have to say that there are a couple of things that I have always thought about the ministry and the itinerant nature of it. The first one is that I had always believed that the ministry was a calling and as such the response was to go where God sends. The other thing and I believe this is true for those in any type of employment is that we go into any job aware of the terms and conditions of that job, and when one is called to the Methodist ministry it is to a ministry that is quite clearly an itinerant ministry. I know when I applied for my current job a few years ago the terms and conditions were quite clearly laid down in the advertisement and in the pack that accompanied the application form. I applied knowing full well what I was going into. I would have thought given the process someone called to ministry has to go through they would be quite clear what was involved in employment terms especially if they feel called as an ordinary member - after all it might be a fairly long time period before they become a minister given that hey have to be a local preacher first and then go through the candidating process etc.
I am not sure what the answer is to this and I dare say that there will be some response in the Recorder on both sides of the coin. It is to be hoped that whatever the response it leads to a realistic assessment of the situation and perhaps even some serious thought on how we might develop the way we do ministry in this 21st Century.