When I looked forward to my sabbatical, I was hoping that as well as a good rest, it would be a time for me to discern, with God’s help, the shape of my future ministry. Our God is a God of surprises and what I had not expected was to receive from him a clear word that it was time for me to let go, and for Robin and me to move from the Old Vicarage at Stoke by Nayland, our well-loved family home for the last 25 years. Robin confirmed that this was right for him too.
I also heard that my work at St Gregory’s was completed. When Bishop Clive agreed that I should stay at St Gregory’s at the end of my curacy, it was because of Greg’s illness at the time and he thought I should look to stay for only two years. In fact, it has been much longer than that, but I am now sure that I was here to see the church through that difficult time and now that Cheryl is well settled in, my work is completed.
The other big surprise is where Robin and I are to go. For several weeks, we simply had no idea, whether it would be round the corner or far away; but, following Robin’s mother’s death last year, we now have no family in East Anglia and so we are going to go to Petersfield in Hampshire, which will be so much nearer all my family and our elder daughter. Again, God’s guidance has been very much in the decision and I hope to continue my ministry there.
I shall miss St Gregory’s and you all very much indeed. You have been such a loving church family to me and the letting go will be very hard. But Jesus says that we must be prepared to lose our lives. We have to learn to let go and the only way is practice! The scripture that has been with me throughout is Genesis 12, in which God tells Abraham that he must leave his home and go to a place that God will show him, and that in doing this he will be blessed and will be a blessing.
I would find this more difficult if I did not know that I was leaving you in such good hands and that Cheryl will look after you. There are so many exciting and encouraging signs for the future of St Gregory’s and, as always, we go forward trusting in the God who is always with us in Jesus.
Cheryl and I have agreed that, rather than come back just to go again, it would be best if I came simply for a last service and to say goodbye, which I shall do on 9th July. Following the so generous gift that you gave me last year, I am also insisting that you do not do so again!
I will see you then. May the Lord bless you and keep you,
With love and my prayers for you always,