Progress and Paperwork

The distinct lack of writing her has not been a conscious decision, but more a mix of laziness and a lack of things to write and then being quite busy, but things now move on a-pace.

The first notable thing is to say that I have graduated!  I suppose I am now technically Mr. Paul Parker BD, although I would much prefer it if people used this term of address and little as possible!  I graduated with a 2:2 which was what I was expecting and which I was pleased with.  Most of my theology friends graduated with First Class degrees and I am very pleased for them.

At milestones such as this I often get a bit reflective and so I have been thinking back over the last three years (with much gladness)!  How I have changed, how I have grown.  What if anything I have changed.  It has been a slightly mixed but generally wonderful experience, which I doubt I would change much at all.  I have affiliated a society to our Students’ Union, been a Society President, fallen in love with climbing, been on a national demo, failed an exam, done very well in an essay I started two days before in Costa, lived with and visited some incredible people, stayed up all night supporting friends, spent numerous hours at ballot boxes, counted for a Union election, helped run the first online election in Bangor’s history and experienced our highest every election turnouts, I have started training as a Local Preacher and have stuck with our fabulous department as it has started winding down its existence, I have fallen deeper into the snare of Connexional Methodism and I love it, I have cried when an old housemate has been called back into work, resigned from a society, moaned about sending E-mails, screamed at people I love dearly and had dear friends leave.  Some of the time I ought to have been doing uni work rather than what I actually did, but if I were to do the whole thing again I’d still stay up, I’d still climb rather than revise etc, it may be the reason I got a 2:2 rather than a 2:1 but I’d rather have all these experiences and have been shaped by them than get a 2:1.

So that is a bit of progress.  Then comes some paperwork, which is, I suppose, progress but mainly just feels like paperwork!  Me and my family spent the week of my graduating holidaying on Anglesey, which was lovely, but involved a day trip to Bangor to look for accommodation for next year which involved some forms, I looked around a few places, decided to go for one, which involved even more more forms!  But several questions and very few easy answers later, I am paying the deposit for a lovely bungalow in Bangor next week! So I suppose I pretty much have a place to live!  That ought to count as progress, and I am looking forward to making it feel homely and stuffing a cupboard with tea!

I have also been filling in Methodist paperwork! An application for a little bit of Grant Funding for next year to supplement the District and Circuit Funding and a form so that my wage goes to the right place!  This second form in particular came as a massive surprise, but is a bit reassuring.  So again, paperwork but also progress!

So September and the “next chapter” fast approaches, but the getting ready for it also continues and a pretty nice speed!

silence is broken

The long silence over here has been mainly down to a lack of things to say, and in part a lack of time even if there were things to be said.  But now, fortuitously I have both time and news!

The circuit has secured enough funding to fund a part-time lay worker for next year.  This is exciting, and if my application is successful gives me a bit of financial security for staying in Bangor next year, and also could be the resolution of the sense of call to stick around and do studenty, participatory stuff here.

More details as and when I have them!

Application Update

I went to bed last night, having written about Palm Sunday with thoughts on a blog post about next year.  And then this morning I got a phone-call from my Minister with some big OPP news, so I shall now try and merge the two together.

The news, drum roll …

The central pot of money we’d hoped would fund the project won’t be.  They had 24 applications and enough funding for 10 projects; I really don’t envy the people making the decision, and if I am honest, think I would have decided not the fund Bangor either, given Cardiff has had a project before.  Obviously this is a blow for the wider church recognising how different North and South Walian life can be, but I do see where they are coming from.

I am not actually too disappointed, this is very much a period of exploring and figuring out.  The next step is to see if the District fancy finding some money to run the project, so the dream isn’t totally dead yet.  A bit more wait and see!

Even if District can’t find the money then I am still looking forward to next year (this is what I was thinking about last night).

I am looking forward to having my own place, to myself, where I can have my rules.  I can have a fruit bowl, my washing up might slide a bit, I can be ueber-spontaneous!

I am looking forward to still having friends; relationships which I have grown to cherish over the last year I can continue.

I am looking forward to scary grown up things like council tax, because that is all part of moving forward in life.

I am currently enjoy knocking around ideas on community, and safe space, and refuge and hospitality and things, and having accomodation which is solely my own features predominantly in this.

So even if I spend all my time working in McDonalds I am very much looking forward to the post-graduation life!

Application Sent

It’s gone!  The Application for our Circuit to host a One Programme Project has been sent off.  This is the bit that I am most nervous about, as in all of life it all revolves around funding.  This is the application for the funding. If we get it, whilst it is not guaranteed that I will be an OPP because the post has to be openly advertised there is a good chance I will be the best candidate who applies.  If we don’t get the funding then that counts as a major hiccough in the plan.  It might also be a good sign that this is not what God wants from me.

Plan Z

I got a postcard from my good friend Emma the other day.  She is over in Germany and it was very nice to receive it.  With this postcard came a whole load of questions about my future, which I pretty much have answers for, but which I shall share with Emma and a wider readership because hopefully it paints a wider picture and I am sure if Emma is curious others might be too!

When do you graduate? I Graduate in August 2012 i.e. this summer.  It is very very soon

Have you thought what you will do after next year? Sort of!  I am also exploring whether I am called to Presbyteral Ministry (like a Methodist “vicar” in short).  So heading towards that.  One possibility is to candidate during next year and start training the year after.  Another possibility is to leave it a few years and candidate later.  To a greater extent I am waiting on God to give me an idea on timings, and because I am a nervous sort would love it if it kept confirming that sense of call.  Preferably with a signed letter from him or something!

There is also the possibility that in the immediate future I am called to stay in the Bangor&Holyhead Circuit and continue my involvement here.  This is relatively new and something I am just beginning to explore.  Sorry that is vague.  If I am to stay here, then I will be in Bangor for a a few years then maybe candidate after that.

What if the don’t choose your OPP project? Such a good question, possibly needs a post to itself, but in sort I will stay in North Wales and seek any employment I can (within the law) to keep me.  I love it here a bit too much to leave and God seems to be suggesting here is the place to be (nice when we agree).

NB – Blog name will be changed, just trying to work out what to!! A few ideas in my head but feel free to make suggestions!

Ch,ch,ch changes!

Meetings and changes seem to be defining the run up to submitting a project application, so to catch you up there has been another meeting and lo! Another change.

Any idea of working across a large area and living itinerantly are ancient history now.  I am surprisingly OK about this.  Maybe it was the gradual and winding path that got me here that made it so.  A lot of people would say that it was God getting me where he wanted me, he had to start me there and grow me.  Maybe that it is true.  Maybe it is God reigning me in from some far of fantasy I had.  Maybe this is what happens when a bunch of different people all try and have a stab at what God wants.  Maybe this isn’t how God works at all. (My zealously Arminian theology is exceedingly comfortable with that, if it messes with people’s idea of a God who controls the puppet strings then they’re welcome to sulk!)

The project is now going to be student work entirely.  We’re dropping the Youth Group element completely. This pleases me, I wasn’t sure paying me to support the establishment of a youth group was the best use of connexional funds.  The churches involved are quite competent and have some good people who can do it themselves.  So I feel far more comfortable with this proposed project!  (Hopefully it won’t change again, but I wouldn’t stake too much on it! I wouldn’t gamble at all but were I to, then I wouldn’t stake too much on it!)

So the application we are writing up is for someone to support the Methsoc here in Bangor. By no means run it, or interfere, there is an excellent system set up for electing the future committee and a Chaplain (who also doesn’t interfere; Methsoc does self-governance better than any other Christian society I know of here!), mainly to deal with some of the things that it would be nice to do but we never have time of effort for along with the day-to-day and important stuff.  So things like looking at how me advertise ourselves and looking at bridging the gap between those who express interest in Freshers’ Week and those who make it to meetings.  There will always be a drop off, but it seems we can do more to decrease it.  (When I was Pres of Methsoc we were E-mail in excess of 60 people each week but had 3 regular attenders at meetings and 10 registered members for most of the year!).  So if the application goes through it will be to employ someone to work in that gap, and also to network with other Methsocs, see how they do recruitment and see if we can all learn from each other.

The project sounds really good.  Something I think will work, is worthwhile and something I am interested in, so that is all good!  And the meeting, between me, Alf, our Chaplain and Lynne, the Project Participation Manager (PPM) who covers Wales, was positive and felt optimistic so that is good.

The next joy I need to deal with, pretty much now, is accommodation for next year.  House-hunting should have started for me, it hasn’t quite yet!  Living on my own is seriously on the cards.  I want the experience before progressing onto other things but at the moment most of my thinking is up in the air and it all seems a bit daunting!

So at the moment the future both excites and scares me. Which seems about OK!

Hearing God, listening to others

As I mentioned I had a meeting with my Superintendent Minister this evening.  This was a follow-up meeting to the one one we had about a week ago where we looked at a project application.  I don’t think I articulated myself very well in this one (which I would argue is unusual, others probably see me as incoherent most of the time).  I went into the first meeting unsure and a little bit afraid of his reaction to my ideas, the ideas, which on some level, I think might be inspired by God, (see musings on personal experience) but came out of it quite pleased (I went into more detail last time).  The same cannot be said of this meeting, although I am not very surprised.  The tone in which the meeting was arranged was not particularly optimistic.

So what was said. Alf was never too keen on the whole campervan thing, and that came up again, so that I was sort of expecting, although it was expressed far more plainly this time.  We may be saying goodbye to Mwyndeg before I even knew her.

The other thing that came up arises from an awkward disconnect between what I want to do, and the most likely way of doing it (being an OPP).  The OPP Project needs to be in a specific local setting, and Alf things “North Wales” won’t be specific enough to secure the funding.

So … he’s proposed a new project.  That I have to work out if I am happy with.

It will be in Bangor and Holyhead Circuit, where I am now, mainly focusing on helping get a junior church/youth group/sunday school running in one of the chapels and supporting the work of Methsoc and building links between Bangor and other places such as Aberystwyth and Wrecsam, the the possibility of talking about the youthy stuff at places too.

This is obviously very different to the original plan, Mwyndeg is gone (that might have happened anyway!) and I lose the regional and peripatetic nature of it.  It doesn’t quite match up with the idea I had of working in a big area supporting lots of different groups.  It will be far more focused.

I could get really stroppy at this point.  “Why aren’t people letting me do what I want” “Why won’t they understand my calling” but to do so brings out the worst of our theology that emphasises a personal relationship with Christ, becuase it implies that our personal relationship is to the exclusion of others, whereas we actually have a personal relationship with Christ in order to bring us into community with him and others, namely The Church.  To expect everything to go as I envisaged it also borders on the messy end of allowing Personal Experience to be a source of authority.  It can be used far too subjectively.

So now comes a time of trying to discern.  Did I hear God wrong?  Am I supposed to be based in this one circuit?  Did I hear God correctly? If so, how do I now go about trying to follow that call?  There are no quick answers to this, I need to spend a lot of time mulling it over, asking these questions of God, trying to listen for an answer, a feeling, an inkling of how to proceed.

One thing seems clear to me, it seems wrong to apply for this project if, as lovely as it sounds, it is not what I think God is asking of me.

So to the listening I go, awkwardly, uncomfortably; it has never been something I’ve been very good at!  I often let other people do it for me (e.g. I didn’t hear God calling me to train to be a Local Preacher until nigh on half my church told me to!), I ma sure I often miss “God’s voice” and when I do “hear” it, then it is ambiguous; it tends to be gut feelings, reaction, little inklings, a feeling of being more comfortable with one path or another.  I do not like this time of discernment, but I owe to to God, the Connexion, myself to enter into it.  It seems to me that it is a reality of following God that we must go through these periods.

It begins

I am now back from a meeting I had with my Superintendent Minister (someone should write a Methodist Jargon Buster I can link to!). He is called Alf and I get on with him very well. I went over to the Manse (house that the Church owns that Ministers live in) for lunch, which was very tasty, and then we chatted about being an OPP. That is, a “One Programme Participant”. The One Programme is the Methodist Church’s strategy for increasing Youth Participation. An OPP is a part time, paid, young person (younger than 23) who works with a specific “project” to make that happen.

I was a little bit nervous about this meeting; I didn’t know what to expect. The idea of living in a campervan for a year is an odd one, and Alf may well have had ideas for me (not that he’d ever force me into them, but telling him I had a different plan would have been awkward for me). As it was, Alf was lovely and very much let me take the lead, so that was good.

The way OPP applications work, is that a church, a circuit (a group of churches in a local area) or a district (a wider area made of different circuits) create a project, and people apply to run them. So we talked about the project application, and what ideas I had about it, and how it would suit me and how it would fulfill the criteria and so forth. So you know, a One Programme Project must;

  • Be run by a young person
  • Increase youth participation
  • Be linked to the Methodist church
  • Be able to run after the OPP has left
It was a good chat, Alf was supportive and liked the idea.  We talked about some good practical stuff; the cost of fuel, living a nomadic life, parking and so on.  As well as how it would link in with other things within the Synod. (I will explain the quirks of Wales district some other time!)
So all in all a good meeting.  Alf is now writing the project application, which I am excited about and it is all moving a step closer.  Once we’ve done the Project Application it gets sent off, and then the people who control the money pick 12 projects to finance and OPP for, and then those projects ask for applications for people to be an OPP.  So the next stage, really, is to get it written and sent off, and hope they like the project.  But things look favourable for this.

More later, probably when we send the application off!  (should contain all the exciting nitty gritty details of the project!)