Carol, in the early stages of pregnancy, shared in meeting friends and there were at least two sessions with church leaders and members. Compared with our earlier breezier visit this was obviously tougher. As I looked at the people we met, all much older than us, steeped in Lancastrian tradition, I new how raw we appeared.
The deacons and advistory group were to meet the next evening and on the service sheet in block capitals Tuesday February 8th. was highlighted for a special church and congregational meeting: This is to discuss the pastorate and everyone is requested to make a special effort to attend. (It was interesting to see how this church combined everyone into a congregational meeting, though voting was clearly the responsibility of members only). We returned home tired yet still with a sense that this could be the right place.
Having no 'phone we had to await the letter to tell me the outcome. I confess that I wondered how much prayer was happening - on both sides of this search for guidance. This has always bothered me because I know how easy it is for group think to occur when choosing a minister rather than God-think. When the letter arrived it confirmed that a majority of the members believed that I should become their next minister. All the leaders had voted Yes but 13 people had voted No and, much later on, some of them confided that they felt I was far too young to be taking on their complicated fellowship. However, the great majority said Yes and our hearts leapt for joy.
However, hearing this news my Area Superintendent tracked me down with urgency. He had heard that the previous minister was staying on in membership with his wife and family. Did I know that? Actually, I didn't. He told me how often a predecessor staying on could make trouble! Only a short time later he contacted me again: 'Forget what I said. I have just met your predecessor at our Area Superintendents' meeting - he is a marvellous man and my worries about you going to be with are groundless'. They did turn out to be groundless because he became a great friend and supporter.
You would think this guidance about my first church was now settled. Not so. A major crisis was yet to emerge.