What a month of transition June is being within St Mark's, as several members of the Leadership Team take significant steps forward in their ministry.
On June 12 we said farewell to Heather and to Gill, as they move on to the next stage of their ordination training – Gill to her next placement at Liverpool Cathedral, Heather to her curacy at Guilden Sutton and at Chester Light Project following her ordination as deacon on July 3rd. We have just celebrated Gary's ordination as priest in the Cathedral on June 18th, and rejoiced with him and the family the very next day as he celebrated Communion for the first time.
So the Leadership Team is being developed and reshaped under God's leading. I too am a part of that process, as on July 17th we plan to celebrate 10 years of my ordained ministry, with a joint service at 10.30am followed by a lunch. After that I shall step down from the staff leadership team, relinquishing responsibility for any specific area of ministry – (in May I already handed on bereavement care ministry to Ron Davies.) But as a member of the clergy I shall continue to be on the rota for leading Sunday worship, and also continue to lead Thursday morning prayers, take funerals and so on.
When Bishop Peter changed my official status 3 years ago to 'retired minister', on age grounds, I received like every other retired priest the Bishop's 'Permission To Officiate' in any parish in his diocese, subject to the will of the incumbent. Hennie has been really generous in interpreting this: “ Do what you do want to do, Wendy,”she said,”and don't do what you don't want to do”. A pretty ideal job description that, isn't it!
'Permission To Officiate' is often referred to as P.T.O. which generally means Please Turn Over. That's what this stage feels like to me: being obedient to God as He tells me to Turn Over into a new chapter. But His precious promises are still the same as ever.:- “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43) His transformation of our lives is ongoing, as He leads us on towards His fulfilment.
During the 1990s one of my responsibilities was chairing a Diocesan Working Group on Older People and the Church. One of the topics we were continually helping people explore was the process of ageing, the advantages as well as the drawbacks – the things we look forward to as well as what we fear. Exploring , if you like, how the Gift of Years really is a gift of God. We are called to do what we have to do with any gift:- unwrap it, and delight in it – remembering of course to say thank you to the Giver.
So I pray that our joint service on July 17th will be a time of real thanksgiving to our Lord.
We are calling it a celebration of my 10 years of service, but of course serving didn't start 10 years ago and it won't finish now. When I asked Jesus into my life as a 15-year-old I not the faintest idea what He would make of that life, and I stand amazed at the richness of His blessing, and the way He is still loving me into new ways of trusting Him, through thick and through thin. As we face the 'diminishments' of our later decades (a good phrase, that, from the theologian Teillard de Chardin) it is , as always, a question of probing ever deeper into what is God's will for us here and now. His daily challenge becomes I think more one of simply being in Him and for Him, rather than doing ever-increasing activities for Him. In the words of one of our older new hymns:-
Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us - Self on the cross and Christ upon the throne, Fear put behind us, for the future take us, Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.