On Thursday I made my last pastoral visit to a minister in the Synod. Simon is now minister of Duston and Mission Enabler for Northants. This was a visit to see how things are going after a few months in post. It was a delight to discover that he is really enjoying living in the new manse, which is ideal for his needs both as a minister and for the family. He is also enjoying his ministry. This kind of visit makes the day for a Synod Moderator.
In the afternoon, the General Secretary, Roberta, visited me for my ‘exit interview’, which is normal practice these days when any minister moves on from their post. This was a very helpful conversation, reflecting on laying down my responsibilities and preparing for retirement. We talked about the handover to my successor, Peter and some of the issues that are still around which he will take up. I also shared the story of how the move of house had gone very well. It is ideal for our needs and well placed for links with the family. We talked about the wider scene and the challenges facing the United Reformed Church.
I will be taking six months ‘sabbatical’ – as I have often recommended to other ministers who retire. In this period, I will visit local churches to find a community to which I and Joan can belong. It may not be a URC as the nearest congregation is in Dunstable about twenty minutes drive away. However, there is a lively Methodist Church in Leighton Buzzard and a small Quaker Meeting, as well as Baptist, Roman Catholic and Church of England congregations. I will also try very hard to say ‘No’ to invitations to serve on committees and so on. Indeed, I have just done so! What I will do in retirement is not yet clear, but I know I will spend time on the allotment and I hope to try to write.
On Sunday morning, I went to the Quaker meeting. There were eight of us present including a little girl aged eight months who joined us with her Dad for the last few minutes of worship. In the afternoon, I travelled the length of the Synod to Hucknall for the induction of Cliff Winfield, a Moravian minister, who is serving the West Nottinghamshire Group of Hucknall, Selston and Westwood. It was good to see such a large congregation and to share in the joy and hope of this new ministry.
I spent other parts of the Bank Holiday Weekend, erecting the shed on the allotment. We are also harvesting potatoes and courgettes. It is good to enjoy these fruits of our labour this year but lots of hard work lies ahead to clear the rest of the patch and bring it into cultivation.
Yesterday and today I have written notes on recent visits and kept in touch with the office, ensuring that everything that needs to be done is done. I also sent an email to colleagues encouraging them to support the Churches Network for Non-Violence campaign to end corporal punishment of children.
It is surprisingly odd to think that tomorrow I will have completed my time as Moderator and need not wake up in the night thinking about deployment, or being concerned for ministers or churches. I think that my care for the Synod and all its people will not switch off immediately. I am confident that the Synod has good resources to face all the challenges that lie ahead.
I wish you all God’s blessing of Love, Joy and Peace.