An important part of taking leave, of a job, a place, of other people, is to take stock of time spent together. Hence I have been looking back over the Temespan magazines – we have an archive of the last eleven years, since we have been here, and before that too.
Part of the vicar’s role is to bear witness to the life of the community, to reflect back in love, and it has been heart rending to read back and see how many dearly cherished community members have passed on, or moved away; whilst also delighting at the almost constant renewal of life represented in baptisms, weddings and simply new names appearing on lists of people who take on roles, or in accounts of socials and community events.
It has been such a privilege to be the Rector of Teme Valley North over these past eleven years. I admit that I quaked in my boots as a relatively inexperienced curate when I took on the leadership of so many churches, in an area that had had struggles with the church in various ways over the previous years. I was encouraged and called, though, principally by Betty – whom I met on a church occasion before I applied and with characteristic tenacity gave me the confidence to step forward. Once in the swim, there have been countless people who have been supportive and also who have had great vision over the years – rendering me an enabler, which is is a wonderful place to be. The best projects happen when someone approaches and says ‘what about …?’.
I am always conscious that thanking people by name is a risky business, as one inevitably misses people out, and so rather I thank all the folks I have walked and worked with over the past decade or so, in both periods of challenge as well as times of easy rejoicing. For me personally, being in such good company helped hone my skills, sustain me when flagging and forged my confidence & resilience whilst consistently calling forth my compassion. Thank you all.
Hopefully I could claim a ‘job well done’ as I move on, and I move on with more space in my heart and having seen God reflected back to me through a myriad of faces and in such diverse places in this beautiful valley. That is your gift to me as a community, and I thank you wholeheartedly for it.
Looking back through those old Temespan magazines, I found the very first ‘letter’ I wrote in this magazine – it was on the theme of pilgrimage, and I quote the final paragraphs and prayer now, as I feel it sums up perfectly how I feel my time in Teme Valley North has been, and then my hope for us all in the future:
Clearly we don’t have to do a literal, physical pilgrimage to live out that calling. But we do have to take seriously Christ’s prompting to movement, and to support one another as we journey forward together, in all our glorious diversity. Let us do so in a spirit of devotion, and take this simple Celtic blessing to heart:
Bless to us O God the earth beneath our feet,
bless to us O God the paths whereon we go,
bless to us O God the people whom we meet,
today, tonight and tomorrow.
Rev’d Louise Grace