In my last post 42: Methodist Stationing 1 I explained the first stage of the stationing process. That ends either with a minister getting an extension for a number of years or with the Circuit and the Minister entering the stationing process.
I did explain something of the stationing process for probationers (not net ordained and going into their first appointment) for them there is no choice, they are simply sent. Obviously the same is true for Circuits who have agreed to have a probationer, they simply receive, there is no choice.
However, for ordained ministers and the Circuit looking for them the process is different, again I am going to focus on Presbyteral Ministers rather than Diaconal Ministers (for whom the Diaconal Order have an important role to play).
I can't go into precise details for the 2009/2010 stationing process as I don't have the detailed timetable yet, so this is a more generic explanation. Note to that the process is subject to change and so may be quite different in future years.
The process starts as soon as the Circuit and Minister have agreed not to seek an extension. Obviously, if the Circuit is not replacing the Minister they drop out of the process. Similarly if the Minister is "sitting down" (Methodist speak for retiring) then they will not enter the stationing process but the circuit will if they want a replacement. Essentially this means the process will be under way by the beginning of September.
In our Circuit last year we know that one Minister was sitting down and another was moving at the end of a 1 year extension, we also knew that we were choosing to move from 4 to 3 presbyters in the Circuit. So both the moving minister and the Circuit entered stationing.
I'll start with the process for Ministers and then look at the process for Circuits.
Stationing Process for Ministers
- Write a profile of yourself. There is a standard format for these which say something about yourself, history, gifts, preferences etc. The profile also indicates your flexibility in where you can serve (many have restrictions caused by issues such as elderly parents, schooling and spouses employment). You also indicate whether you are willing to serve as the Superintendent of a Circuit. Submit the profile to your District Chair.
- Receive, read, digest and pray over a book containing profiles for all the Stations (the appointments circuits are seeking Presbyters for). Make a list of the ones you think you are most suited to (suggestion appears to be that you put between 5 and 10 stations on your list). Send the list to your District Chair.
- The District Chairs (and a small number of others) meet together at the start of each of several stationing rounds. In each round they first try to match presbyters with the Superintendent Stations, then they seek to match Presbyters with as many other stations as possible. They do this by working with both the Circuit and Presbyter profiles as well as the District's policies and plans for mission.
- Each time the District Chairs come up with a "match" both the presbyter and circuit are informed and they usually arrange for the presbyter to visit the following weekend (or the one after that).
- When the potential presbyter visits a circuit they have been matched with there are a number of things that will probably happen.
- Meet the Circuit Stewards and the Circuit Leadership Team
- Meet the Circuit Staff
- Meet people from each of the Churches they would have Pastoral Charge of
- Visit the manse that is allocated to the station.
- At this point if both parties are happy then the match is confirmed and subject to ratification by conference the minister will move into that manse during the following August and start working in the circuit on September the 1st. If either the circuit or the minister is not happy with the match then both parties are put back into the stationing process for the next round of matching. I suspect that at this point there will be consultations with their District Chair by the presbyter and the Circuit.
- Those stations not filled after three rounds of matching are treated specially, occasionally a minister will be "plucked" out of an existing appointment to fill one that is considered to have a high priority. Also high priority appointments that have not been filled are advertised around the connexion.
- In a similar way any presbyters without a station after three rounds of matching will presumably work with their District Chair to see what can be done. I am very vague on exactly what happens at this point, I know that this applies to one Minister from our District at present (ie no appointment yet for September).
- Generally there will be a number of stations around the country (around 70 in total I believe) that do not get filled by 1st September.
Stationing Process for Circuits
In the most part this is similar to Ministers, only it is an Invitation Committee chosen by the Circuit Meeting that will write the profile and make the decision about the suitability of the match etc. Usually the Invitation Committee will include Circuit Stewards, representatives of the Churches that the minister will have pastoral charge of, and some or all Circuit Staff.
I am not very familiar with any of the earlier versions of this system. So far most of what I hear says that this is the best system we have had to date and that in most cases it works pretty well.
Of course there are always some cases where it is difficult to find a match. Generally that appears more common for presbyters who are fixed to a small geographic area (something that is perhaps becoming more common as spouses incomes are frequently the main income in the household). That is hardly a surprise as geographic restrictions must make it harder to find a match that meets other preferences of the presbyter with the geographically available stations and their preferences.
The process does mean that Presbyters and Circuits are both very dependant on their District Chair, for many years the Northampton District has been in the vary capable and loving hands of Alison Tomlin who has inspired our confidence and trust through here sensitive and loving support for us. Alison is stepping down as District Chair this summer (not quite to retire as she is doing a one year job share of a superintendency with her husband first). Our new District Chair will be Peter Hancock, who I have not yet met (but have heard good things about).