I’m writing this, my last pastoral letter, surrounded by boxes and things waiting to go to the charity shop or members of the family. Moving day approaches as we’re moving out early so that the manse can be completely refurbished: new kitchen, bathroom, patio door and garage doors and decorated throughout. It’s been a long time since it was last decorated and the kitchen doors keep falling off (mostly landing on my toes). It will be a lovely home for Dee when she moves in.
Meanwhile we’ve been refurbishing our own house. Refurbishing the house, sorting out the manse and getting rid of half the contents while working full-time has proved to be a bit of a juggling act, but we’re getting there. Tony has done most of the work on our house, ably assisted by Sophie who seems to have a talent for such things. I’ve been in charge of sorting the manse out. It’s all been about people doing what they’re best at and keeping going – a bit like life in general. I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea about installing a kitchen with all the plumbing involved, but fortunately Tony has.
Next a skip is arriving and then the packer uppers arrive and eventually cart everything away in a great big van. It will be strange returning to a house that is so familiar to us (we’ve owned it for 42 years) and yet it will also be different. The house is different, the neighbours are different and we are different. So familiar and yet so unfamiliar at the same time.
I’m certainly a changed person. The privilege of being alongside you in joys and sorrows, births, weddings, baptisms and bereavements has been the mainstay of my ministry. Then there is the preaching; wrestling with the text and thinking through how best to communicate its message week after week.
I have loved being your minister. Yes, even the meetings. Belonging to a wonderful group of people doing things together. I will miss this life.
A minister in a neighbouring circuit once said,
“Where is God in all this? I am well aware of one of the attributes of God being Immanence (always with us) but sometimes I think God has been quite lost amongst the clutter on my desk. And yet… for all the sleepless nights I have always got through the next day. Never once have I got to Sunday morning with nothing to say.”
I relate to that so much.
We do not do what we do in our own strength but as a part of the family of God, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Thank goodness. Sometimes I have felt so tired that I haven’t known how I’d get through a service or a meeting but then something happens and often they are the times when I feel closest to God. Strange and wonderful.
On behalf of both Tony and myself I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support, encouragement and trust. For being there when things have been difficult, for listening and not judging.
No one will ever replace me because I have had my time among you, but the Rev Dee Yeadon will carve out her own place among you as your ministers have done for over a hundred years. Each with their place, bringing their gifts and their weaknesses.
I know you will support Dee in the way you have supported and encouraged me – she is in good hands and so are you. It is a time of new beginnings for us and you.
I wish you all well and be assured that I will continue to pray for all of you. May God be with you always and bless you richly.