The Search for Significance:
A New Chapter
Two years ago, I began to wrestle with some deep-seated questions. I found myself asking: ‘Shouldn’t I be leading my own thing about now?’ It wasn’t just me either. Friends and colleagues pointed out – in an encouraging way – that I could be leading my own church. While I felt happy in my role as HTB’s Pastoral Chaplain, the feeling that I needed to take the step back into senior Church leadership began to gnaw away at me.
Despite concerns over the implications this might have for my ministry in emotional and mental health, I spent nearly a year pursuing a vacancy at the helm of a notable city centre church. Suffice to say that it came to nothing and Louie and I found ourselves reeling in the disappointment and confusion that followed. In time, God brought me back to Romans 8:28: ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
God had another plan.
Throughout my life, the process of managing pain has been laced with the revelation of God. I sometimes wish it wasn’t so, but I cannot deny that I have been shaped most dramatically in the fire. My disappointment precipitated the very questions that I was trying to escape from; ‘Am I any use? Have I achieved anything? What do other people think about me?’ The rejection I had experienced seemed to cry out, ‘No’, in response.
But then, I started to hear a different voice: the voice of God.
God seemed to be asking me different questions: ‘What have I called you to? What makes your heart sing? What truly matters to you? And most importantly, ‘Who have I called you alongside?’ I cannot pretend that God’s questions instantly silenced all my insecurities, but their honesty punctured a trajectory that, while right for many, was not what God wanted for me in this season.
It was while having a coffee with a friend; Rev Tim Stilwell, at St Dionis, Parsons Green, that the question, ‘Who have I called you alongside?’ again echoed loudly in my soul. Within Tim, I saw a heart moved by compassion for the local community and an arresting generosity of spirit. Without any preamble, I found myself tentatively asking, “You wouldn’t consider working with me, would you?” He sat back and smiled.
God was really at work.
Despite the uncertainty and challenges created by Covid-19, and all the possible obstacles that can come in the process of clergy appointments, I am delighted to have been appointed Associate Vicar of St Dionis. By God’s grace, I find myself able to answer his questions with integrity. I sense a deep call to serve and lead in the local church. My heart sings when I can support people who are struggling with their mental health. Growing a diverse church that particularly empowers the whole person; mind, body and spirit, matters to me the most. I want to see people flourish and grow in the fullness of their God-shaped humanity; to know the depths of Spirit-filled joy even amidst the pain and complications that life can throw at us.
I take up my post on the 1st September and Louie will be taking up the post of Ordinand at St Dionis, preceding her ordination in 2021. We would love you to pray for us as we make the transition to our new church, particularly as we say sad goodbyes to dear friends and colleagues at HTB. Needless to say, my commitment to The Mind and Soul Foundation is as strong as ever; indeed the charity now has a beautiful new London home in the shape of St Dionis’ Church, which I hope you will be able to experience as the venue of a Mind and Soul national conference in the not too distant future.
Will Van Der Hart, 24/06/2020