Happy New Year to you all!
Hang on, it's not January ... what am I going on about! Well, September marks the start of the Methodist administrative year (or the Connexional year as we call it) when all our office holders – who were appointed some months ago – start their duties ... or continue for another year as is often the case!
September is also the time when Methodist Ministers start their new appointments (as I did here in the Southampton Circuit in 2021 and my colleague Stephen Robinson and his wife Dorothy are doing so in 2022) having moved to a new house (or manse as we Methodists call it) and for me, a wholly new part of the country, during July. There is of course an expectation that a Methodist Minister moves to a new area every 5 years (it used to be every 3 years) with all the upheaval of furniture, family and friends that entails, alongside the farewells to the Churches and communities you have travelled alongside. This isn't a rule that is 'set in stone', and as I currently have the nicest study I have ever had, I'm not keen on moving quite yet!
The early Methodist itinerant preachers however didn't have the luxury of removal men...or even furniture: they were sent off on horseback on a pre-planned circuit of destinations with a knapsack, bible and a hymn on their lips and they slept in stables, haylofts and in a proper bed when offered.
These first itinerant preachers were young single men, mostly hand-picked by John Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) himself, were sent out with his instruction that "nothing less than a broken leg should prevent you from completing your task"!
John Wesley, alongside being an Anglican Priest (the Methodist Church was formed after his death in 1791) was a superb administrator. Many of his systems are still in operation today – the formation of groups of Churches into Circuits, the democratic nature of decision making where lay people and clergy carry equal weight and the itinerant nature of ministry to go (or be sent) where the greatest need arises. He took his inspiration from Jesus' actions and teachings ... which in my opinion is a very good place to start!
The first disciples, who were sent out by Jesus, received these instructions: "Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave". (Matthew 10:9-11 NRSV).
May God continue to richly bless us, wherever we may travel, as we journey side by side during the coming year!
Rev. John G Hughes