When I returned from my retreat I found an e-mail from a church in our Connexion looking to invite a minister as from 2012 and enquiring whether I would be interested in discussing this matter further. Now as it so happens, 2012 is the year I am likely to be returned to a circuit appointment after my stint at the seminary, so an e-mail such as this is bound to grab my attention.
On the one hand, I'm grateful to the person who thinks highly enough of me to put my name forward as a possible candidate to the congregation concerned, particularly since finding the right "fit" between a minister and a congregation is a critical and often sensitive matter. On the other hand, this raises a number of issues, since as probationers we are not allowed to even entertain approaches of this nature, being as we are at the disposal of EMMU and Conference.
It's so difficult under my current circumstances to do the "right thing". And I'll readily admit that securing an invitation that starts once I finish at seminary would certainly give me much peace of mind - especially since such invitations are normally for five-year periods, and starting such an invitation period in 2012 would dovetail nicely with my son's high school years.
This is also not the first time I've received such an approach - one of the smaller congregations in the Circuit from which I candidated seemed quite keen to have me as their minister, given that they were not yet at the stage where they could afford an ordained minister. And that too was an attractive option, since I would have been able to remain in my own home, with my family, instead of having to leave them behind when relocating to Uitenhage. However, the possibility of being stationed at that particular congregation was always going to be a non-starter, given that I had not even started my probationary period as a minister and, in any event, being stationed in the Circuit that I grew up in would probably have not been appropriate at that stage.
As the rules stand at the moment, only ordained ministers and probationers in their ordination preparation year can make themselves available for invitation. All other probationers are stationed by Conference based on recommendations made by EMMU. And while there is undoubted merit in this approach, it would be nice for those of us who have families (particularly those with school-going children) to be able to consider such invitations.
In the end I was left with little choice but to contact the church concerned and politely decline the opportunity to pursue this matter further. And I'm at peace with that, trusting that God will be faithful in having called me to ministry by providing a suitable station once my training period has been completed.
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