This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of The New Emmanuel Times, the magazine for friends and members of the church. Printed copies can be picked up from Emmanuel Church in the Ecumenical Centre.
It feels like quite a long time ago now that I felt the call of God to offer for Presbyteral ministry in the Methodist Church. This did not come out of the blue but over a period beginning from the age of eighteen years old. I was encouraged by others who possibly sensed the direction I should or might travel in before I did. It was a call tested through the due candidating processes of the church. Following acceptance, initial three year ministerial formation and training at Wesley College in Bristol (now gone) and two years as a Probationer minister in my first circuit appointment, at the Methodist Conference of 1995 on a Sunday morning I was duly received into full Connexion (a very Methodist sounding thing) and on the evening of the same day ordained as a Presbyter of the Methodist Church. The rest, as they say, is ongoing history.
One of the things you accept when entering this ministry is that it is itinerant. That is, as a norm you will not stay and minister in one location indefinitely but be stationed in various places for limited periods of time. Whilst these days more account is taken of the needs of the minister’s family you are still expected to serve where your gifts and graces are needed and as the Methodist Church stationing committee ultimately decides. In following this discipline I have been privileged to minister in Atherton (Lancashire), Handforth and Wilmslow (Cheshire) and Gornal on the outskirts of Dudley (West Midlands), before for these last nine years being here in Redditch. Such itineracy has its challenges but I remain convinced that overwhelmingly it is healthy for both congregations and the minister themselves to change from time to time.
The time has come for me to be on the move once more, but on this occasion not such a big change as generally in the past as I will be staying in the Circuit. With two ministers in the Bromsgrove & Redditch Methodist Circuit of which we are a part retiring, and following a process of discernment, I have been asked and have agreed to become the Superintendent minister. This is another very Methodist sounding thing and whilst much more could be said it effectively means becoming the team leader and overseer of the Circuit as a whole and the ministry staff in particular. This role has its own challenges and time demands, and as Superintendent I will continue to have pastoral oversight, or ‘be the minister’, of several churches namely Bromsgrove, St Andrews Church Hill and Alcester. Wisdom convinced all of us involved in the discernment and decision making processes that becoming Superintendent whilst continuing to have oversight at Emmanuel would be too demanding. At the same time it seems appropriate that after a long time of having Methodist Presbyters ministering at and through Emmanuel that the opportunity should be taken to seek to call a United Reformed Church minister to serve in this joint Methodist/URC church (there is more written about the process underway to facilitate this elsewhere in the magazine).
When I move on from having pastoral oversight at Emmanuel at the end of August I will miss you all, and hope the feeling will be mutual! There is time yet for us to reminisce about and hopefully find reason to celebrate the times we have shared together these last nine years. In any case it will not quite be farewell as I will still be around in the circuit. But it will be an ending of sorts and will mean change. This brings a mix of excitement and anticipation, sadness at parting, potential discomfort over the uncertain as-yet-unknown future and of change itself. This calls for a degree of faith in God to carry us through. In the words of an old Methodist hymn, let’s seek where we can to praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come.
Rev Steve Levett