Each August, there is the great Methodist tradition of the annual game of musical chairs, but without the music and involving houses not chairs. It goes like this....the removal van turns up at the Manse (home of the minister and family however one might want to define family) and the residents - minister, family, cats, dogs, etc. all decamp to another Manse somewhere else in the country ready to begin a new appointment and ready to begin the new Methodist year which runs from September to August. This is called ''itinerancy' - another great Methodist tradition in which ministers submit themselves to a process around every five years which could see them working anywhere in the country. When our golden years are upon us, retirement some call it, we cease to be itinerant and seek permission from the Methodist Conference to 'sit-down'.
A quaint tradition which means new beginning are always just around the corner.
I am conscious that the new Methodist year is now upon us...new staff are in place, newly painted homes occupied, new telephone numbers remembered and there is much change afoot as many ministers consider whether they want to remain in their current appointments or travel once more, and other having made that decision wait upon their Lord (and the stationing committee!) to direct and guide them to new appointments.
Yet more wait, anxious because this is the first time they have entered this process and do not know quite what to expect.
I am reading a volume written by the Irish poet John O'Donohue called 'Benedictus' and in it he offers a timely reminder to me, to us all about new beginnings.
He writes...'Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in truth, no beginning is empty or isolated. We seem to think that beginning is a setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case. Shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced. Goeth says that once the commitment is made, destiny conspires with us to support and realize it. We are never alone in our beginnings as it might seem at the time. A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. To refuse to begin can be an act of great self-neglect.'
God bless our endings and our beginnings