Today is my last full day of reading and research on my sabbatical – I have writing up to do on both projects but today I put away the books. The next few weeks will be taken up with travelling, meeting family in two different countries and seeing four very different cultures in the USA, New Zealand and Hong Kong. We arrive in the USA the day after presidential elections and so will either be celebrating with the family we are staying with or help them drown their sorrows. This will be a time of new experiences but also of reflecting on all that I have read and experienced in these last two months – a title God to impress on me what are the key things that I need to take back into ministry.
The work that I have done on the Baptist Deaconess Order needs completing but that will have to now wait until next year. It has been both fascinating and, to some degree, depressing to read the story of women serving churches within the union and the immense difficulties that they faced, and to some degree, still face. But the biggest challenges how to do ministry as ‘me’rather than how it has been done in the past or how others might expect me to do it. God called me with all my faults and idiosyncrasies and I believe God wants me to minister as me whilst all the time learning to become more and more Christ-like in all I am and do.
The book list for the sabbatical was planned over six months before I started and directed by a tutor at a Baptist College and what has amazed me (though it shouldn’t) is that it has confirmed as well as stimulated ideas that had already been forming within me. The changes that I need to make in how I do ministry, and that I believe churches need to make, represent a fundamental shift in the way we ‘see’ church and how we see mission. Clearly, the ideas that have been growing in me are not new as they have part of every book that I have read and yet they feel scarily risky and challenging.
My task now is to see what God has been saying to the community whilst I have been away and how we move forward together into God’s mission for our local community.
The physical journeys that I am about to go on feel like a transition from the old to the new – it is of course actually the same journey and the future is just a continuation of that even though it feels like I’m going a whole new direction. Exciting and scary all at the same time.!