On the 6th of July five Probationer Ministers (including yours truly) will be 'received into full connexion' (see the article below for what this means) at the Methodist Conference in Scarborough. Then, at 4:30, five of us who trained at Wesley House will be ordained at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. I am particularly pleased that we will be ordained at a church which has a united Methodist and URC congregation as my 'sending church' is a united Methodist/URC congregation.
The article below is one that I wrote for the church newsletter to try to explain a bit about the process of ordination. If I got anything wrong, I'm open to correction by more knowledgeable readers of this blog.
If you are reading this July edition of the newsletter during the first two weeks of July, chances are that I will be away; first on retreat in Durham, and then at the Methodist Conference in Scarborough.
Along with four other Probationer Ministers who studied with me at Wesley House, Cambridge, I will be ordained at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley at 4:30 pm on Sunday the 6th of July. A dozen or so people from Kidderminster will be there at Beverley for the ordination.
A number of people have asked me why I have to go all the way to Beverley to be ordained. The answer is that every year The Methodist Church holds an annual Conference somewhere in the country and all the ordinations happen during that Conference. This year, Conference just happens to be in Scarborough. There will be about 50 new ministers being ordained and we can’t all fit into one place with our guests, so we are divided up into different church locations according to the college or course we attended during training: for us, the nearest available church was in Beverley!
So what is so special about Conference? If we were a company, it would be like our Annual General Meeting, except that Conference has more authority than that. Conference decides not only what our procedures will be but also what our doctrines and disciplines are. We are a ‘connexional’ church (‘connectional’ in today’s language): neither a dictatorship nor strictly a democracy, but a community of Christians who seek to govern their affairs nationally as a connected community of congregations. This is why local congregations are part of a circuit and circuits are part of a District and the Districts send representatives to Conference.
If you understand the Methodist Church in this way, you can begin to see why ministers are ordained at Conference. Ministers may be called by God, but we are called to serve others: to serve the Church community as well as the community at large. The Church helps ministers to recognise our call in the first stages and it trains us. By being ordained at Conference, it is the entire Methodist Church of Great Britain that ordains us and not just our local church or circuit.
On Sunday the 6th of July, two things will happen to those of us about to be ordained. First, we will be ‘received into full connexion’ when Conference holds its morning worship service at Scarborough Spa. This means that Conference recognises us as brother and sister ministers and it is only from this point forward that the Church is obliged to ordain us! Then, we will all travel to the locations where we will be ordained later that afternoon.
The ordination for those of us who trained at Wesley House will take place at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. The Revd Ian White will preside at communion and the preacher will be the Revd Inderjit Bhogal; they are both former Presidents of Conference. Each of us Ordinands will have hands laid upon him or her by the Revd White and by a representative of Methodism abroad; in our case, this is Bishop Carlos Poma from the Methodist Church in Bolivia. In addition, a minister who we have each invited to assist us will lay hands on us; I have invited my friend, the Revd Mark Wakelin, to be my ‘assisting minister’.
The journey to ordination is one that each individual takes with the support of the Church and of many Christian brothers and sisters. I am grateful to all of you for your support and your kindness and the tolerance that you have shown me when I have put a foot wrong or come up with some wacky idea! May I take this opportunity to thank everyone for your love and prayers; please be assured of my prayers in return.