I'm feeling a little sad this morning as I received a letter from D+1 saying that they cannot accept our proprosals regarding a merger. They do not wish to close the door, and say that it may be possible to consider this again in the future, but for now the answer is, effectively, 'no.'
I am sad, because it offered a lot of exciting opportunities to do something new that built on the heritage of these two congregations. I am sad, because maybe I/we expected too much of them in what we asked. I am sad, because, humanly speaking, the consequences of the decision are not positive.
There is good news, the two congregations do now know each other better and have had a unique opportunity to think and pray about our futures. On balance, hymnbooks aside, the shared services have been a positive experience. It is good that a conclusion to the discussions has emerged, even if its content is disappointing.
There are consequences. D+1 want to continue to share services on a monthly basis, but I feel that sends out a confusing message. The whole purpose of the shared services at this frequency was the potential for merging - with that purpose gone, the emphasis shifts to one of shared friendship, and my own view is that quarterly services would express that better. Something has changed; we cannot simply carry on as if it hadn't.
There are benefits! A lot of time and energy has gone into the discussions, and sustaining this long term impacts on other ideas and opportunities. At least if this pathway has reached its end, we are free to walk along others.
At a personal level it is a little unsettling. I have a fairly clear view of what I believe is the task God brought me here to do. With these conversations seemingly over, part of that task is done and, effectively, I have the first 'sign' that time here is limited. I had already felt that this year I needed to devote a lot of energy to handing over repsonsibilities to others if initiatives were to be sustainable longer term; now there feels a greater imperative so to do.
My memories of the settlement process may be tempered by time, and although I remain firmly committed to it, they are not pleasant - so I hope that God gives me enough time to get my head around it before I need to enter it again.
Exciting things are happening in Dibley & District and lots of changes are afoot - my prayer is that I will have the nous to understand what God is saying in it all.