25 June 2020
On Being Called
When I was walking the length of the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath two years ago, in an effort to clear my head and discern whether I should allow my name to go forward for the Presidency, I knew that the discernment needed was vocational. Was I actually called to be President as my next appointment in Ministry? Was this my calling within a calling?
Now the time as President is drawing to a close, I can say that I am now called forward into other things; that this time is an important part of my story but not all of it; that it will form the shape the narrative, furnish me with anecdotes; that it has made me think and grow, but that there is more to be discovered, gleaned and shared in the future. For this I thank God, and the Methodist people who have prayed and loved me through it!
I think it is a truism to say that we cannot see our life looking forward. Only looking back do we see the pattern of God’s call in the many twists and turns. For one, I don’t believe God has a plan for us like someone who draws a map and then directs the cars on set routes, rather God has an intention. The intention is that we see and listen and love and flourish. We enjoy and struggle. We love and we mess-up, get angry and passionate. We live life in all its fullness and wonder. And that God is our companion within it all.
Clive and I have been immersed in the story theme all year. For me it has challenged me to see many things differently. At Tolpuddle, Englesea Brook, in Cornwall and at Epworth an encounter with Methodist history and heritage brought me to new understanding of the many strands of stories that we Methodists inhabit. The yarns we tell have many colourful threads. It also brought me to ponder the hidden stories within the main narrative, thinking of the wives of the Tolpuddle martyrs, the struggles of Susannah Wesley, the challenges faced by the wife of the missionary to China, Samuel Pollard. How do we hear these stories and honour the struggles behind the main characters?
I have also pondered the direction other people’s vocations have led them, with the Forces chaplains, with the Island ministers, with the awesome work of Janet Jenkins working as a Deacon with the street homeless of Clacton …. so many stories and vocations. And I have also had to engage with the vocations of others, in politics, in the media, in the caring professions. So many stories that make us who we are as a church and a society. It’s been a good year, a challenging year and a surprising year, but all in all I think it has been a vocational year.
So now I wonder, how the story of the Methodist church moves forward. Can we embrace and live a Methodist way of life, that gives us an identity beyond church buildings, a way of being with and accountable to each other, I hope so! Can we learn to live with contradictory convictions and hold together in love, so that our differences enhance our Christian life not undermine it? Can we act positively in our society to counter racism, discrimination and the inequalities that lead to anger and poverty? I believe this is part of the Church’s vocation and that if we live authentically and with integrity we and the next generation will be able to see the path of grace. This is our challenge. This is our calling.
And thank you, Methodists!
P.S. Many of you have used and shared the prayers I have put on Facebook each week. I am delighted to say that a CD of songs made from the prayers is soon to be released. It will be called ‘Stories to Tell’ and some of the proceeds will go to All We Can.
The Revd Dr Barbara Glasson
This article first appeared in the Methodist Recorder on June 19 2020