At present I am a weird place; entering a new year normally brings that sense of expectation, that sense of something different from the last, a new impetus to the work. Christmas with all its unfulfilled expectations has passed, a new year has begun.
But this year I have started the New Year with a sense of gloom, my redundancy notice was given in November and each week creeps not to something exciting but something deeply sad, the unforced and unwanted move that looms on the horizon in the early summer.
My journey to Plymouth began four years ago, I was on a stag do which went horribly wrong, we ended up in the flat of the best man’s brother not in a festival campsite that we had planned. The flat was in an area of Plymouth I had never been to - Devonport. While others in my group could not leave Devonport quick enough (we went home a day early) I was fascinated by this place. I had been used to living in areas of high deprivation, having lived in Easton and Bedminster in Bristol, so maybe I was immune to some of its less attractive qualities than some of my mates, all from leafy Surrey.
When I finally got on the list in my last year at college there was only one church that I wanted to have my name put forward to - Devonport Community Baptist Church. The road to being called was not an easy journey, but despite all the setbacks, I was called as the Minister in February 2012. A manse was miraculously paid for, despite the church having no money, and thanks to the generosity of other local Baptist churches, and we moved in July 2012, after finishing college.
Over that time the church, has changed in terms of faces, but also in terms of ethos, a unanimous vote for women to be allowed Elders and also preach in July 2013 was not expected when I joined the church just a year earlier, and the church was going forwards. However, the only thing negative in the box is money, and that is the only reason behind the redundancy.
Soon I will have to go back on the settlement list, but this time without that same sense of call: in many ways the problem I have is that call to Devonport is still in me, it has not gone away, moving does not seem right, but in May we have no option.
It is why this year, despite my lack of optimism, I still cling onto that call. The verses that are firmly stuck in my mind are from Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew’s Gospel:
6:30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today
And somehow I have to do my best for the area that God has called me into today, and put aside what the next stage of the journey may have to look like.
The Revd Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church, Plymouth
Related: Why do we allow some of our least resourced churches to struggle in deprived areas?
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