I have written two letters in the past week, letters that took quite a bit of crafting, letters that acknowledged an ending that I have known has been coming for a few months, but could only now be fully communicated. In short I will be ending my ministry here in Sheffield Circuit this summer. In my letters I said that this decision had not been easy, and had been made following much prayer, many conversations and not a few tears. This is true, sometimes endings, even when they are right can be very hard, and can come in unexpected ways.
I know that there are people who feel I have made the wrong decision, and there are others who support me, I am most grateful for the huge support I have had, especially from those who might rightly feel that I have let them down, this has helped me enormously.
Change can be difficult, I suspect it is difficult, because most of us want to feel settled and secure somewhere, or at least to have a firm place to stand, when that place shifts of cracks we feel it keenly. Like many for me the pandemic has really shifted things, it may be that those places that I have felt have been secure and certain were not what I imagined, or simply that everything moved and flexed making that change inevitable.
When I read the accounts of the early church I find some comfort, the book of Acts is in many ways an account of a people on the move, coming together and moving apart, responding to the Spirit willingly at times, and at other times rifts and schisms are created in relationships, events and sometimes through natural disasters! Teams join and split, and disagreements rise. Through all of this the gospel holds, the message of Jesus is preached and the kingdom of God grows, people are called, equipped and released. It seems that even our best efforts to get in our own way can be used by the Spirit who is endlessly creative and able to restore and heal us.
So, I am leaving Sheffield, I have found the last couple of years very hard, particularly lockdowns which highlighted the loneliness and isolation that I had felt in some senses but been able to deal with, in the busyness of life pre-pandemic. My priorities were changing, and along with those priorities the shape of the place that I had felt called to also began to shift and change. My first instinct was to hide from it, my second to fight it, and finally came both the acceptance and the beginnings of the ability to embrace it, I am in some senses still working through all of those.
The lightbulb moment came in a meeting where it came to me that I was being gently but firmly being thrown out of a nest where I no longer belonged to fly elsewhere, and all the while God has been with me, both in the loneliness of lockdown and through the changes as they have occurred, when I have struggled to see. Psalm 23 comes to mind, the shepherd who walks with us through the darkest valley, as does the footprints prayer, which I used to find annoying in its simplicity, I have been carried even when I haven’t acknowledged it.
I firmly believe in the God who goes before us and makes a way for us, over and over again, the words of our Methodist Baptism Service “All this for you, before you could know anything of it”, that statement of prevenient grace, echo in my heart and mind. All will be well, and through changes and challenges, I will be changed. So I am choosing life, whatever that may be ahead of me, and right now I do not know, but there is one who does.