For one last time, I’m sitting here looking at a blank screen, wondering what to write for the Church magazine…
As you know, Janet and I are moving on from Otley after 22 years. Our last Sunday is 21st November. Otley has been a great place to live and bring up our children, Mark and Tim. Tim was just 6 months old when we arrived as many of you will remember.
And now we’re heading off to our house near Northwich in Cheshire and not at all sure what will come next. A hint of what may happen is elsewhere in this magazine.
Again and again in life we have to move on – leaving behind the familiar and embracing a new context. Letting go and trusting God. Sometimes we choose the transition, but often we have no choice. It starts when we’re born and only finishes when we die – the final moving on in this age at least.
I’m still surprised when I tell people how long we’ve been here. It was never my plan to stay so long! To be honest, there have been ups and downs, and sometimes when I’ve been very keen to move on (Janet has rarely shared that feeling!). But there have always been people who made it a joy to stay.
So what have I left to say?
Firstly, “Thank you”. We are so thankful to you all. When Janet and I first looked at Otley Parish with a view to coming here, the Rural Dean, Peter Sutcliffe, said that people at the Church simply needed to be loved. And he gave us a great view of the parish in more than one way, as we looked together at Otley town from the top of the Chevin.
We accepted that calling to love the people of Otley, but what we didn’t know is how much love Otley had to give, and how much we would receive.
Secondly, “Love one another”. In a time when we’re all a bit confused as to where society and the world is heading, and are rightly very concerned about many issues, the starting point is what it’s always been – growing a loving community with Christ at the heart. Don’t be overly concerned with what you must do. Be patient and plumb the rich depths of the Gospel.
To paraphrase St Paul: In so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Be gentle with one another, kind and compassionate, forgiving each other as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Thirdly, “Let your love embrace all” in the astounding welcome you give as you reach out in love to all whom God lays on your hearts – in Otley and far beyond. And especially those whom we think of as different, or difficult to love. God’s grace is enough. There’s a place for everyone, with Christ at the centre.
Fourthly, “Be honest”. God can meet us anywhere, even in our self-delusion, but mostly, I think, he meets us when we’re honest. He speaks through us, and moves most powerfully, when we are honest about our faith, not when we mask our failings, or our doubts or our true feelings. Remember that the word hypocrite comes from a Greek word describing an actor who wears a mask. A hypocrite is someone speaking from behind a mask, pretending to be someone else.
Fifthly, “You’ve got what it takes in spade loads .” Don’t wish for a new vicar too soon! Have a good look around and see the talent in your midst. The months ahead can be good and creative months for the whole church. As we so often remind ourselves, the Church is the people not the building. Not a vicar plus some pews. And you’re so talented, so loving, so good-looking…
Finally: “Be a World Church”
- Here to serve the world because God so loved the world that he sent his Son and still sends us in the power of his Spirit
- Part of a world-wide community with every person from every nation equally loved and cherished by God
- Promoting care for the world, God’s creation
God bless you and keep you! Do come and visit us in Northwich.
With much love,