I’m not leaving the ministry

Terminal sign showing an airplane taking off and the words Terminal Check-in
When leaving one chapter of your life not everything is terminal!

Today was my final Information and Communications (I&C) Board meeting as the representative of the Diocese of Edinburgh, and I managed to make an entrance by turning up about 50 minutes late having just shown a nice man from Pickfords (whom it turns out was born in Selkirk in the early 1970s) our house and contents so that he could quote us a price for removing it all (sans the house) to Cellardyke sometime next month.

The latest edition of Inspires magazine was revealed and on flicking through this advance copy I noticed something that I should have spotted when I cast an equally hasty eye over the proof that landed in my email inbox a couple of weeks ago.

The article in question is about Episcopalians who blog, and paragraph six begins:

The Rev Gareth Saunders, who will shortly be leaving the ministry to become St Andrews University’s Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager, is one veteran who has recently been designing the Provincial website using the WordPress blogging tool.

Hang on a minute! Who will shortly be leaving the ministry?! No I’m not! Oops! I obviously didn’t spot that one when I was correcting my job title (the first draft had me in my boss-to-be’s role, which I’m sure wouldn’t endear me to him on the first day!) and ensuring that WordPress had its rightful ownership of two capital letters.

It’s interesting because words are important, and I know what the author of the article means. He means that I’ll be leaving stipendiary ministry; a ‘stipend’ being money that the church pays me so that I don’t need to find a job to support my ministry. And ten years ago I would probably have phrased it in a similar manner.

In those days, Ministry — true, authentic Ministry with a capital ‘M’ — equalled ordained, stipendiary ministry. How my time at TISEC and my reading and thinking around the whole area of Jesus’s call on all that he calls to be disciples, knocked that out of me. Anyone who is baptised Jesus calls to Ministry. Some are called to ordained Ministry. Some are called to stipendiary, ordained Ministry.

Ironically I’m now on a position where I feel that I need to go and get another job so that I can in some way exercise more fully part of my ministry, which I believe has something to do with the whole IT venture. I trust and believe that God has lead me to this point — the doors certainly have been flying open, which is most encouraging — and I trust too that God will lead me forward into whatever He has in store for me.

It really is quite an exciting time, looking ahead to my new job, new responsibilities, new opportunities. But I’m certainly not leaving the ministry. That’ll teach me to look beyond spelling and typos when proof-reading Inspires and pay attention to the content too.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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