As I've prepared to move on from leading the churches of Kemsing and Woodlands, I've needed to think what I want to say as I leave. What words of farewell, of fare well, would I leave our church family with.
Each quarter for the past 12 years, I've written a one-page article at the front of The Well, the magazine our church produces for the whole village community and distributes free of charge to every household.
Here is the "vicar's letter" from the most recent Summer 2021 edition.
“And now the end is near, so I face the final curtain.” So begins one of Elvis’s most well-known songs, “My Way”.
A few days ago, I posted the transcript and a link to the video of my presentation, explaining my reasons for leaving the Church of England, and for moving to join Trinity Church Scarborough as their Associate Minister.
That presentation was given on a Wednesday evening to our church family, having told them the Sunday before that I would be leaving. In that briefer leaving announcement, I said (pithily) that Jesus was my boss, and loyalty to him meant I had to move.
This coming Sunday, 11th July 2021, will be my last serving the people of Kemsing and Woodlands as their "vicar". When I announced in January that I would be leaving, I gave a presentation to explain my reasons for leaving the Church of England, and where I was going instead. This is that presentation.
Earlier this week, our Deanery Synod had an excellent 45 minute presentation from one of the clergy in our deanery, Revd Dr Lorraine Turner. Lorraine's doctoral thesis was on the subject of bullying as experienced by clergy, and her subject with us was bullying.
Clearly, 45 minutes is far too short a time for anything other than the most cursive of introductions, especially for someone who has studied this with the thoroughness required for a PhD. Nevertheless, it was extremely helpful, for reasons including the following:
It is a great privilege indeed to belong to a Christian church, and so to the Christian church.
This last weekend, I reached the milestone of 10 years serving the churches here in Kemsing and Woodlands, also a great privilege.
That gives me cause to look back on the many churches I have belonged to over the years. Each made its mark in different ways, and the person I am today is undoubtedly shaped by the time spent in those churches.
I'm taking a 3 month sabbatical starting in May. This is something many Christian ministers find helpful. The Diocese of Rochester, within which I serve, used to recommend this every 7 years (although I see that their guidance now says 10 years).
The other day I was asked why we spend time in church (during sermons) talking about issues that may not be relevant for us today.
Unpacking the Question
On the face of it, it's a good question.
If I look out at the church family here, I can think of many subjects that speak directly into needs we know and feel. Maybe there are issues about unemployment, family life, over-demanding employers, ageing and dementia, the housing market, and so on.
With the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, people are discussing remarriage after divorce. Why do some clergy allow this and some not? Does this undermine the teaching that marriage is for life? Let's try and think clearly.