Dear Sisters and Brothers,
At the beginning of the new year we have recently renewed our Covenant with God, and have committed ourselves anew to “willingly offer all I have and am to serve
you, as and where you choose.” The Covenant prayer dramatically reminds us that God’s purposes for us do not remain the same, but change and evolve as life moves on and circumstances alter; but that God’s purposes are always an expression of God’s “faithful and enduring love” for us and for those we are called to serve. Therefore part of our response to God’s love is to be continually engaged in an active discernment process to discover what God is calling us to next.
This can lead to some big surprises, as I feel very aware at the moment. As many of you will know, Dan has been called out of a 20-year teaching career to serve on the Connexional Team as Director of Ministry Development. This has made quite a change to our pattern of family life, but Dan is finding it energising and inspiring and this is good not only for the church, but for our family.
And now it seems that I, too, have been called to take a new path. Looking back, I can now see that God was already beginning to move me on through the deep reflection I did during my Sabbatical, which drew me into disability theology. This in turn led me back into academic theology to begin doctoral research last October. And now I find myself called on to a further stage: I have been appointed to the post of Tutor and Lecturer at Sarum College, to cover Beth’s maternity leave, while she spends time enjoying lovely baby Merryn. This exciting opportunity means that I am no longer employed as a Circuit minister.
I have been reflecting on the lovely poem that begins Ecclesiastes 3, which reminds us that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” My season as a minister in this Circuit, and especially at SMc has been absolutely wonderful! It’s hard to find the words to express how precious to me this season has been, and it is all of you who have made it such a blessing. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you there hadn’t been any moments of frustration or disappointment or exhaustion! But I hope you will believe that they have been very, very few.
I have received and learned far more from you than I could ever hope to give and I am humbled that I have had the privilege to be a minister at this vibrant, loving church. There are too many individuals who have supported me to thank you all by name – but whether you have offered a word of appreciation on the door, sent cards, turned some of my crazier ideas into reality, put up with me being late, been willing to share your wisdom and advice, taken a task off my to-do list, been a “yes, we can” sort of person, given me hospitality or shared your story with me – all of it has mattered immensely to me and enriched me more than I can say.
It is always a wrench to leave behind one season of life, even when the new one promises much. But, of course, we won’t be leaving you! And that makes it all feel much easier. As a family, SMc is our spiritual home, and so we will all remain involved in the life of the church in many ways. However, I will need to learn to be an ordinary member of the congregation – I haven’t done that for a long time and so I will need you to help me!
None of us knows what God will call us to next, or when, and perhaps God will turn out to have some surprises in store for you as well in 2024. But as the Covenant reassures us, whatever happens, we can always be sure that God goes ahead of us and is waiting for us in our unknown future to shower us with the riches of God’s grace.