The time has arrived for me to sit down and write my farewells to you all after four and a half years as your Priest in Charge. As a member also of the Diocesan Vocations team for the past three years I ought perhaps to be able to apply the lessons to myself that I aim to help others to learn when discerning God’s will for the future. One of the chief lessons is that sometimes God calls us into risky living in unexpected places! Virginia and I have for sometime believed that we have been living in a ‘threshold space’, a place of waiting and being prior to moving forward into something new.
It’s no secret that we have hoped and expected the ‘new’ to be based around the word ‘Norfolk’, a place we both love very much, a place we have dreamed of living in for many years and a place where we have many friends, not to mention ancestors. We decided last summer that it was time to take a step of faith but then the November lockdown and the New Year lockdown and the increasingly serious situation made that step appear more difficult. But we took it anyway. We still don’t quite know exactly what God wants us to do or precisely where he wants us to do it, but we are on an adventure to find out.
So my final thoughts I offer you are about ‘calling’ and the sense in which every single one of us who loves God has a calling, no matter what our situation. A few weeks ago Bishop Mark wrote to all the Chester clergy, basing his thoughts, as befits the beginning of a new ministry, on the opening of St. Paul’s letters. So I am borrowing the principle of his idea but taking the ending of one of Paul’s letters instead.
At the end of his first letter to the church in Thessalonika, Paul writes: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your body and spirit and soul be kept complete and blameless. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us.” God is calling you, always calling you. He has a plan for you, as a church and as individuals. Part of that plan may be understood as the continuous call into ‘sanctity’ which means becoming holy, and as I have said many times, holiness is not to do with becoming more ‘pious’ or ‘religious’ but is to do with the presence of God himself in your life as a church and your life as an individual. And Paul suggests that every aspect of you – body, mind and spirit – is involved. Indeed, this is what makes you ‘complete’, and gives you your integrity as the Body of Christ. To be complete then, does not require you to be doing something particular, and doing it faster, more efficiently, more urgently. It requires you to be open to the presence of God: to be alert to the surprising way he makes himself present through the work of his Spirit in you and amongst you. Nothing much else matters. Really. Because where God is, there is love in all its completeness, its richness and variety. Where God is, there is peace in all its beauty and profundity; there is integrity, there is real community; there is life itself. And you, all of you, are being called into that. And you are called to pray. So, beloveds, please do pray for Virginia and me.
And finally, I would like to thank you all – for friendship, fellowship and fun, in times of joy and also in times of sorrow. I know how much you care for each other, and I pray that you may go on extending that care wider and wider into the community that surrounds you and which needs it so much.
Virginia would like to add: “Thank you for always making me feel welcome, for sharing meals and conversation, and for the wonderful fellowship of Celtic Communion. Every blessing as you journey onwards.” To which words, I simply add my own blessing: “May the peace of Christ be with you.”