In my 3rd year as a Circuit Steward (CS), I have completed one year as senior CS, and have two still to go. We have a lot taking place in our Circuit, including a complex property development, which leads to a lot of legal, technical and schedule-filling involvement, as well as many meetings! Chairing the core committee is good: it does have its moments, but is not as challenging as working with solicitors! Central to the development, however, is not the administrative stuff, but to focus on the resulting mission in the surrounding area of Basingstoke.
CPD refers to the ‘spiritual and material well-being of the Circuit’ as ingredients of the CS role. I would certainly find the job unsatisfying without becoming really involved with the congregations of the three churches I am linked with, their Church Councils and their aspirations for the kingdom – for that is the life-blood of the Circuit and of our Christian commitment! Professionally, I have been involved in much strategic planning and hence I do greatly appreciate my involvement in this aspect of Circuit life. Planning for the future of the Circuit, fully guided by the Holy Spirit, is a crucial aspect of the CS role.
Describing our role in terms of lists and things-to-do, buildings and annual schedules, gives only part of the story. I am convinced the role depends on relationships. We have a vibrant and imaginative team of Ministers and lay workers in our Circuit, and trying to develop appropriate care for them in our CS team is fundamental. The aim, surely, must be to have spirit-filled relationships with the Super (pivotal!), and with the other Ministers & Lay Employees, with the Churches, and with as many members whose names I can remember! Only then can we reflect on how things are going, and how folk are doing their job, and help the Circuit achieve its aims.
‘There’s not a lot to it, but….’
Invited to become a Circuit Steward with these words and discovering that they were not entirely accurate, I wondered what I had let myself in for.
Discovering that, together with a few others, I was responsible for looking after churches, manses, Ministers and policy was daunting. I quickly learnt how to think on my feet, look as if I knew what I was doing, calm ruffled feathers and, above all, I learnt the art of delegation!
I could not have prepared for this role. There are the practical jobs dealing with the mundane life of the Circuit, but for me they were less significant than three tasks that took me by surprise.
The first revolved around attending church council meetings and this took on a life of its own. It was easy, if tedious, to go to the meetings, but beyond that there was a need and desire to build relationships with those in the congregations. I was welcomed to their special events and services, confided in and showered with encouragement and support, with the occasional wise words of advice. In a rural Circuit such as this one, the small churches can often feel isolated and vulnerable. Having someone from the wider Church take an interest and support them can give a sense of self-worth, confidence and empowerment.
Alongside that there is the role of offering practical and pastoral support to the Ministers. Their humanity sometimes conflicts with the expectations churches and individuals put on them. Even trying to guard their day off can be a challenge. I found I could never do too much listening and upholding.
Finally, being part of the decision making in the Circuit was exciting. Being a steward gave me a wider view of District and Connexional activity. Trying to link the two together and attempting to lead the Circuit forward tested skill and strength and brought immense reward.
There is a lot to do, but the rewards were unexpected and God blessed abundantly. And I love the job!
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