Going to bed tonight with a large degree of excitement, nervousness and thankfulness as tomorrow is the day when I will celebrate 25 years since Ordination at Burton upon Trent, never knowing I’d be coming back to the town as Presbyter.
I look back and try to remember all the things that have happened over those 25 years, from my first pastoral visit in Oldham to discover the person concerned had died 6 months earlier (but not taken off the pastoral lists !) and that was only on day 1, all the way through to the funeral I’ve arranged over this past weekend.
I have the privilege of going back to Trinity Chapel,where the Ordination took place (now known as Confessions) where I’ll be hosting an open house for anyone wishing to join me.
25 years ago I had completed my Probationer time in the Oldham and Saddleworth Circuit where I learnt so much and made a good many friends. Many have passed on to glory now but they loved me and I loved them. I think of Mary Timms who was one of our regular babysitters, John and Hilda Longworth, Harry, Mavis, Ken, Shirley, May, Jack, Gareth, Kate and so many others. I give special thanks that was there that a great friendship was born with Judith Weston, the creator of my waistcoats.
The Methodist Conference was held in Derby that year and as is always the way all Ordinands were “Received into Full Connexion” at the representative session of Conference (in Derby itself) and then sent out all over the District to be Ordained. My college was sent to the Trinity Chapel in Burton. How special it was for me, as my Mum had died only 7 weeks earlier, that Dad was able to come down with Alison’s Mum and Dad.
How the Trinity has changed over the years as it is now a coffee lounge and a host of other small businesses including a hairdressers. Steve bought it from the Methodist Circuit and has done a marvellous job transforming it.
This was a picture taken at the re-opening night a couple of years ago; its changed again and Wowow has gone, replaced by a different hair stylist, but the whole venue is so tasteful. I’m deeply grateful to Steve and the manageress of Confessions for letting me take residence and simply be.
So where have the twenty-five years gone ? it feels as though they’ve gone in a daze, filled with memories from Oldham, Erewash Valley Circuit, Ripley Circuit, Borders Mission Circuit and currently the Trent and Dove Circuit. In that time Ive had pastoral oversight of 33 churches and been Superintendent over e Circuits; Ive worked alongside 25 different colleagues and learnt from each one.
Ive been a Probationer, Presbyter, Circuit Evangelism Enabler, Superintendent, Deputy Chair of District, school governor in 6 schools, served with Rob Frost on Share Jesus Missions, travelled with him on 3 theatre tours, continued my own love of drama in Oldham and Erewash Valley and then Ripley Circuits.
Ive taken funeral services for babies and for elderly and all ages I between; Ive laughed and cried with folk, returned to my home circuit for anniversaries, enjoyed Spring Harvest for many years, led weekend retreats on prayer and evangelism………….. and it feels as though theres so much more.
Throughout it all alongside me has been my wonderful family, Alison, Rebecca, Vikki and now their partners Michelle and Mark. Of course Piper our grandchild has become the new love of our lives and soon to be joined by her baby brother. The family have been tremendously supportive throughout and Methodism owes them a great debt (as they do all Manse families). A debt for the times when Ive sat in bed counselling someone down the phone while Alison lay asleep beside me, the times when Ive dashed away from a family meal to go urgently to the hospital, the times when meetings in the house have limited my family times and the girls went with it. The times when Rebecca and Vikki shared their Dad with other children who visited and never complained. The times when the house was invaded by visitors including one lady who stayed 7 months and bought us a dog bowl as a thank you ! Rebecca and Vikki just put up with the craziness of a manse family and I appreciate all of their support. Without them I couldn’t have achieved half of what I did achieve.
So often the Ministers family are just expected to be there but Alison, Rebecca and Vikki have been more than ‘just there’, they have been integral to my Ministry and continue to be so.
As I look back I have to acknowledge that at times it doesn’t feel the same as it used to; more paperwork, more administration, safeguarding, pastoral supervision, are just a few of the things that have changed the calling somewhat; some changes have been for the good and others I’m not sure about.
However, what I am certain about is my calling. I still feel called to ‘save souls’ and bring people to know Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour and nothing will change that.
I hope to see many there tomorrow but even if no one turns up I’ll still give thanks for a wonderful journey and look forward to that which yet lies ahead of me.