There have been many changes in the itinerant system of the UMC over the years. From what it sounds like, back in first and middle part of the 1900s ministers showed up at Annual Conference and learned if they were moving or not. No prior warning. Simply called out each appointment by name and then there was a frantic line at the payphone to call home and let their spouse know that it was time to pack. Now it is different and there is a joy in that. My wife and I would go insane if every year we had 1.5 weeks to pack before we moved. Too much planning on our part happens to use to be that ready.
What I like now about the system is they do seem to listen to the needs of the pastor’s family. They attempt to do their best to listen and work with what they have to take care of the needs of the minister and his/her family. I know this is not the case for everyone and I am sure you can find tons of people who would disagree with that sentence but it is true for me.
During the move process I received our first projected appointment. It was not what I was hoping for or expecting. I am sure that some good ministry could come out of that appointment but it didn’t tick off any of the boxes I was hoping for. There were a laundry list of reasons why this would be a bad fit and so we started to look at our options. My District Superintendent (DS) knew I would not be pleased with the appointment. I could read it on her face when she told me. But my wife and I prayed about it. We did as much research as we could on the area and the church. We did our secret ninja drive by to see the community, but in the end we knew it wouldn’t really work. And if we had to move there it would not be for the long appointment that we desired.
The option that presented itself was to ask for a reconsideration. I was told to write a letter to the cabinet naming the reasons why the projected appointment wouldn’t work and what we desired out of an appointment. We set to work writing, rewriting, praying, rewriting, praying, sending it off to have people read it, and praying some more. Finally we created a one page letter that we thought represented our situation the best and we sent it off.
After round two of appointment making meetings we heard about our appointment. There was a change and the second projected appointment ticked off most of the boxes we were looking for. I praised God because it seemed the Cabinet actually listened.
When we received our first projected appointment I felt let down, frustrated, angry, disappointed and for the first time truly doubted my abilities. I thought I had accomplished some good things here at Trinity and that the cabinet could see that but after the first round I thought my accomplishments had fallen on deaf ears. Then with round two I felt they had listened. I do not understand what it is like during the frustrating, prayerful, and stress-filled appointment making process. I truly feel the DSs and Bishop lose sleep over their decisions and wonder if they are the right ones. I don’t seem them as heartless or vengeful, although I am sure that there are others who do. I feel the system worked for me and I may never know why.
So today, as I write my sermon and pack boxes, I am thankful that the system has seemed to work. It may only have been for me and my experience and I have faith that the cabinet is doing their best for the sake of the Conference and the Kingdom of God. I confess I didn’t feel that way in March but not in May I do.
Bishop and the rest of the Cabinet, please forgive me for my ill thoughts and frustrations. Thank you for prayerful listening.
(Something I never found was a written guideline for what a Letter of Reconsideration should look like. If you are in a place where you need to write one I am happy to email you a redacted copy of mine. I am not saying it will work but I’m happy to share the format and structure of the letter. Just send me an email at revjimparsons at gmail dot com)