And so we draw towards the close of 2018 and like many folk at this time of year I reflect back on what has happened, mistakes, joys, regrets, sadness’ and hopes for 2019, so bear with me as I look back and also look forward.

In many ways it’s been a tough year, which on reflection actually began in October 2017. That was when we moved house mid-appointment and I vow that we’ll never do it again. In future we’ll hang on until the traditional August move or we’ll tell the Circuit that we need two weeks off after a move. The problem this time was that as we prepared to move a serious issue within the Circuit blew up and I never got time to deal with things properly. I ended up going from looking after three Churches to all close by to looking after 5 (two at the far end of the circuit) and it has staggered into the second half of 2018 as I now hold responsibility for 8 churches (shared with the great Ministry of Revd Stella Mills and Revd Helen Harrell and the great support over two churches of Mrs Teresa Hawkins). It has meant a year of criss-crossing the circuit calming folk who were worried, angry, threatening to leave and supporting colleagues also caught up in the midst of the storm. I believe it has calmed down now and we look forward, expectantly, to our new colleague coming next August.

The consequence of this is that we are still unpacking to a certain extent and still trying to sort my study out into the way I’d originally envisaged it.

Throughout the latter half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 I held the role of Deputy Chair of District alongside one of the best colleagues I’ve ever had, Revd Paul Worsnop during the absence of our current Chair of District who was fulfilling her role as President of Conference. It was a challenging time to which I’m still not sure I was able to give it full attention, because of circumstances such as the move and other things which will follow later in these ramblings. I currently am continuing as Deputy Chair. I consider it a great honour and privilege to have been asked and I continue to try my best amongst colleagues who I’m convinced are far more qualified than I am.

February 2018 brought with it a frightening moment as I’d been having trouble swallowing and when I went to my GP he uttered one word, Cancer, and sent me to the hospital for a very urgent appointment to have an endoscopy (camera down my throat). Not a painful procedure but uncomfortable and I cannot praise the staff at Queens Hospital, Burton enough for the kindness, gentleness, humour and skill that they showed to me. However and thankfully it came back clear of anything untoward. It seems strange but I’m convinced the problem is the age of my false teeth and my need for new ones which leads me to not chewing as well as I should do ! However I cannot afford new teeth just at this time.

June brought with it the opportunity to rejoice and celebrate with friends, family, church members and Rotarians as I acknowledged 25 years since my Ordination. As the Church in which I was Ordained is here in Burton, and is now a cafe I was able to ‘take it over’ for the day and simply host a day long coffee time. It raised £81 each for Romania, YMCA, and the Burton Addiction Centre, and for me it was simply a joyous and a time of great thankfulness. Even my best friend, Judith, was able to make it from Oldham where my first Ministerial appointment had been.

July 1st saw me inducted as the President of the Rotary Club of Burton. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I was the President of West Ashfield Rotary Club in 2010. It is a tremendous honour and as with my Church work it is something that I haven’t sought but that in itself makes it more of an honour that I’ve been asked. It has brought me into interesting situations amongst other Rotarians and Rotary clubs, great opportunities to serve the community. I’ll hold the post until next July and in that time great things lie ahead such as the continuing work of Rotary in eradicating Polio, restoration of Burton railway station and the supporting of youth around the town. great stuff.

August, though, brought with it the most difficult time of all. My brother Andrew and I had been concerned about Dads increasing forgetfulness throughout the year and also in 2017. Suddenly in early Summer Dad was admitted to hospital after an accidental overdose as he took several days worth of tablets in one go. Thankfully he came through this, but then whilst I was on holiday I got a phone call from Andrew to tell me that Dad had been urgently admitted to a care home as he’d been found wandering in the street where he’s lived for 56 years yet unable to find his own home. And so the looking for a care home began alongside the worry about what was going to happen. I found myself on the M1 many times (see previous blog October 7th) travelling up to see how things are, to try to support Andrew who has risen to the task admirably and of whom I’m extremely proud. As you can imagine it’s incredibly sad to see Dad failing but a wonderful privilege to be able to be with him as he has been with us for the whole of our lives. Last week we got the diagnosis of dementia, which Alison and I in our previous role of Dementia care Chaplains had already worked out. 

Thankfully we were able to celebrate Dads 90th birthday in September

It means for an interesting journey as we travel into 2019 not knowing what is going to happen, but content with the home he’s currently staying in and knowing that we’re doing all we can for him. However, I suspect that there will be more tears to come.

Hot on the heels of all this came the great and tremendous news that we are grandparents again. Vicky and Mark gave us a grandson, Emett William in September; Piper now has a baby brother and already she lets us all know that she is the big sister ! She loves I’m to bits but it’ll be interesting in a years time to see how she feels when he’s started pinching her toys. We’re so proud of our family and this Christmas we were able to gather together, Rebecca, Michelle, Susan (Michelle’s Mum), Mark, Vicky, Yvonne and Phil,  (Marks Mum and her husband), Piper, Emett, Alison and I to share in the opening of presents and the eating of dinner. We are so grateful to have a family close to us. Blessed.

And so you can see its been a year of ups and downs as it probably has been for everyone reading these ramblings; such is life. What do we look forward to in 2019 ?

I look forward to the time when I will receive a hearing dog for the deaf as my hearing is now almost non-existent. I’ve been accepted and I now just await my name to rise to the top of the list, so it may be this year or the next but in the meantime Im fussing over every dog that I see.

I look forward to being involved in mission work throughout the District as mission becomes our focus more than ever both in the circuit but also in the District.

I look forward to continuing to get to know my current colleagues and meeting new ones as we learn to truly work as a team, and seek the vision for this area.

Most of all I look forward in 2019 to remembering that I’m married to a lady, with her own great Ministry, and to giving Alison all the love and support she’s ever given me. She and the family remain the most important people in my life, on this side of the Pearly gates.

I step into 2019 with confidence, hope and expectation borne out of the knowledge that I love and serve a Lord who first loved and served me, Jesus Christ