Mike and I took part in the Connexional Team Start of Year Service – and it was a very odd experience for me, and a poignant theme.
As many seem to know my post as ‘Secretary for Internal Relationships’ was made redundant at Methodist Conference this year, and I was officially no longer in post from the 1st of September. Under normal circumstances I would not have been seen for dust but because I was President I had to come back and look positive!
Being made redundant is not fun, whatever the rhetoric that comes out from the organisation, ‘this is not personal’, ‘this does not imply you have done a bad job’, ‘it’s the post that has been made redundant’ etc., etc., it doesn’t feel that way. You feel rejected, you feel that what you have done has ‘failed to come up to expectations’ and not just ‘The post that has not come up to expectations’ as the report on which the decision was based suggested. I have been surprised and to be honest deeply embarrassed how badly I have taken this turn of events.
I’ve tried to understand why. It’s partly because Methodism does these things in the most impersonal way, there is very little conversation and round robin emails are the usual way of keeping you up to date. It’s partly to do with ordinary crushed ego and pride, ‘but I thought I was doing a good job, how can they not need me or what I did?’ It’s also partly about insecurity – ‘I’d rather relied on being settled for a while so the Wakelin clan (Oakwood Branch), could finish off paying a mortgage! But underneath all this was a sense of personal doubt – ‘am I really that unnecessary’,’ has God really not been behind all the hard work of the last four years?’
I struggled with that so much because I had felt so strongly called to work in the Connexional Team – so much prayer and worrying about applying for the job. Losing your job doesn’t involve you very much unlike applying for one!
But here we were with Mike and I taking a lead in a beautifully planned service for the beginning of the year. Mike took, ‘we’ll praise him for all that is past’, and as usual gave a carefully crafted and compassionate talk about praise and the past. I had to tackle, ‘we’ll trust him for that’s to come’.
After much thought I focused on one thing – ‘how little we do actually really know about the future – but how much we do know about God’s love. I’ve no idea what this year will bring, but I do know that come hail and high water I will be loved, and so will you.
Though waves and storms go o’er my head,
Though strength, and health, and friends be gone,
Though joys be withered all and dead,
Though every comfort be withdrawn,
On this my steadfast soul relies,
Father, Thy mercy never dies.
Johann A. Rothe (tr. John Wesley)
Having told this story – a little self pitying I’m afraid, I need to notice that my colleagues, John Ellis, Christine Elliott Hall and Paul Winyard also lost their jobs and without the luxury of being a Minister who is guaranteed an appointment and a house. My colleagues have given a great deal to Methodism and I want to thank and honour them, if I may, from my rather odd position as a Methodist President currently on his own, ‘President’s List’.