Flash back to 1st January 2022 and Nathan and I were sat eating a Macdonalds with a sleeping Sophia in the backseat. I lifted my diet coke in the air as a toast.
‘To 2022!’ I said.
‘To a year with no change!’ said Nathan.
‘Cheers to that!’ I agreed.
Since we arrived in Liverpool five years ago, there has been only one year with no ordination, new job or baby. We were anticipating that 2022 would be another year like 2019 with no big changes.
But, as the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
You might have seen on Facebook or email that I have got a new job. I have been appointed as Vicar of All Saints with Saint Frideswydes in Thornton and Crosby. It’s been a couple of months since the application deadline and a whole month since the interviews, which is one of the reasons why I have struggled to write my normal Weekly Check-Ins recently. A lot of my time and energy was going into this discernment process and obviously it needed to be confidential. I remain committed to being as open and honest as I can be on my blog, but I felt that I couldn’t really write about how I was feeling, so I just didn’t.
But I have always blogged about discernment so here are some of my thoughts about the last few months.
Unlike when thinking about offering for the ministry, choosing Vicar School, finding a curacy and then a first incumbency, this period of discernment has had a big element of sadness to it. All those other times when feeling God whisper in any particular direction, it has been part of the natural flow of things. You offer for ordination when you and God are ready. You move onto Vicar School within a couple of years of being recommended to train. You train for two or three years, come to the end of college and you look for a curacy. You spend three or four years learning the trade, come to the end of curacy and you look for a church. There’s a rough timeline that most people follow and those around you know when they can expect you to be moving on.
However, it’s not normally like that when you leave a church as Vicar. So when clergy leave quite soon after they arrive, it can be painful and a bit of a shock. I never intended to be a vicar who did that.
But when I went to a service at All Saints with Saint Frideswydes and the minister at the front prayed that God would send them a new vicar, something changed inside me. You know when your blood runs cold? It was like that, but it ran hot. Like, there was actual heat. It was a very unusual experience, but very special and I knew what it meant.
To be fair, I had already written my application by that point. I had been hearing a gentle whisper for a few months but I wasn’t certain until right then. So after the service, I went home, opened up my laptop and hit send on the application.
And then I trusted the process. All the time, I was sad at the thought of leaving The Good Shepherd and I felt incredibly guilty for even thinking about it. I wrestled. I wrote lists. I prayed a lot. The night before my interview, a very wise friend said that God doesn’t play trickster. And that feeling of heat pulsing through me was something that I absolutely couldn’t ignore. When it came to the day and I received the phone call to say that the panel would like to recommend me to the Bishop, I was surprised. It’s such a great church and I wasn’t sure if they would choose me. I had a thumping headache from the heat and asked for an hour to think about it. After a glass of water, two paracetamol, a pray and a chat to Nathan, I called back and said yes please.
So, I am moving on. The Good Shepherd will always have a very special place in my heart. It is the place where I learned to be a vicar. The people helped us welcome Sophia into the world. Last month Nathan and I baptised her there. The Good Shepherd will always be a part of my story, and as I have said on many an occasion, God is not done with The Good Shepherd.
I turn to this new challenge with a wisdom that I didn’t have three years ago. I turn to this new challenge with more confidence and more awareness of my own shortcomings. I turn to this new challenge with so much gratitude for what has gone before and excitement for what is to come.
So even though I didn’t see it coming, and I won’t be moving for a little while yet, onward I go.