Making promises
Watching the news reports of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America, I was reminded of George Bernard Shaw's observation that the US and the UK are "two nations divided by a common language". In contrast to the speeches and bands accompanying the American ceremony a new Prime Minister’s assumption of office comprises a visit to the Palace and rather low key appearance in Downing Street for the next occupant of ‘No 10’. And so the baton is quietly passed and plans are put in place for the new incumbent’s Cabinet as holders of the key positions in his or her government are duly announced.

All this made me think of other new beginnings some of which are accompanied by oaths and promises and others which are all together quieter. I remember as a child preparing to become a Brownie Guide by practising the salute over and over again and worrying whether I would get the words of the promise in the right order. All these years later I can still remember the words: ‘I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and help other people and keep the Brownie Guide Law’. Of course the words have now changed but children are still promising to do their best. Later in life as a nurse, I committed to keep the Nursing & Midwifery Code of Conduct as I worked alongside medical colleagues who had also agreed to abide by the principles of good medical practice, as defined by the General Medical Council. You may be surprised to hear that doctors are no longer required to take a Hippocratic Oath. The taking of oaths is not as common as it used to be although witnesses in courts and MPs taking up their seats after an election are amongst those still participating in this ancient tradition.

Now as a probationer minister in the Methodist Church I am preparing for ordination as a presbyter after a number of years of training and formation. The service is a solemn and moving occasion as each ordinand is asked to declare their commitment to their ministry and acceptance of the doctrines and disciplines of the Church. At its heart this is a time for individuals to renew their commitment to the service of God. It is also a reminder that what is being agreed is a covenant and not a contract that can be made and broken if promises are not kept. So as I prepare for ordination and my next new beginning, it will be in the sure and certain knowledge that it is only by God’s grace that I shall be able to fulfil the role and duties of a minister of the Church. And no there won’t be a band!

Revd Nicola Martyn-Beck