I was listening to ‘Rainy Night In Soho’ by ‘The Pogues’ and was struck by the first verse as it reminded me of my time ministering here in the G7 benefice:
‘I’ve been loving you a long time,
down all the years, down all the days,
and I’ve cried for all your troubles,
smiled at your funny little ways.’
When I came here as your curate I had made a declaration to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, and ‘to serve the community in which I was set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all people.’ I was to search out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and ‘reach into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.’
In other words I was to love you as God loves you, to cry with you and to smile with you and I have certainly done that over the last few years.
With my priesting came other responsibilities, notably to be a servant and shepherd among you. To tell the story of God’s love, to baptize, to preside at the Lord’s table, to lead worship, to bless you in God’s name, to minister to the sick and dying and to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people.
I could only do this by loving you as God loves you, crying for all your troubles and laughing with you at your funny little ways.
St John writes in his first letter;
‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action…We love because he [God] first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or a sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.’
When we as a family came to you, you took us into your hearts and made us feel a part of your community and I hope in turn that you feel we have taken you into our hearts also. You allowed me to make mistakes and never held them against me, even if it was saying the Lord’s Prayer at Pluckley before the choir could sing it or turning up for a Friday Iona Eucharist half an hour late at Westwell.
Most of all you allowed me to grow into the priest that you are now sending to Rolvenden and Newenden and I hope you feel some pride at the job you have done.
It is with a mix of sadness and excitement that I leave you, and not without some tears shed, but one thing I know is that it is not goodbye. The world of the Church is a small world so it’s not ‘Goodbye’ but ‘See you soon’.
For one last time may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always.
With love from Chris, Julie, Jack, Rhianna, Tommy and Rebecca.