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Time Flies By...

For yesterday's service, as is my practice, I had 'customised' a baptismal towel by embroidering the word 'baptism', a cross and the date onto it.  I also, as is my practice, took along my own baptismal towel, which a friend had embroidered for me (with an applique copy of the banner that hung behind the baptistery of that church) and another she had done for my ordination.  Each of these has the dates embroidered too (even if the one on the ordination towel is out by a day... clearly I was pre-ordained by my lovely friend).

At the end of this year it will ten years since my ordination - as a 'late settler' I missed the summer rush and was ordained on 6th December 2003 - and in just a few weeks time I will reach the tenth anniversary of leaving 'vicar school'.  This latter is always a bit bittersweet, the self-same day, we celebrated as a college the completion of our studies, and I received the news that I had failed to reach the required percentage vote to a church I was (and still am) convinced God had called me to serve.

A decade on (or thereabouts) I still meet up with a few folk from that church at the English Baptist Assembly, as there is something about the intertwining of our stories that still remains.  Whilst at this year's Assembly I realised afresh how God works despite our sin and finitude, despite our stubbornness and deafness... I will always believe God wanted me to serve that church for a season, but I now realise that it was a church that would have struggled to cope with my cancer diagnosis, not because they were weak or uncaring, but because their previous minister had died of cancer.

I believe equally strongly that God called me to 'Dibley', a church that accepted this crazy city-girl and allowed me to cut my ministerial teeth.  I went there knowing it was 'for a season' not for a lifetime, and with no idea quite why God wanted me in a semi-rural church.  I had nearly six years in which we declined numerically and grew in community.  A season in which we relinquished a much loved chapel and adapted to worship in a school hall.  A season in which I learned to value this little, faithful community with its proud traditions, 'interesting' characters and unquenchable courage.  I knew it was for a season, when the time came to leave I was ready, but Dibley is part of me, and I keep in contact with almost half the membership!

The call to Scotland was a surprise... but I knew from the moment I set foot in the Gathering Place that this was where God had called me, and where God continues to call me, to serve.  It has proved to be the right place in countless ways, and God has worked in all that we have shared for nearly four years (already!) both joy and sorrow.  Numerically we are stable, but that masks the inevitable transience of a city church, characterised by seasonal variation in who worships with us.  As I start to wind down for my Sabbatical, I have begun to look back over these early years of our time together and see how we, too, have changed and grown as God's Spirit has worked within and among us.

A decade ago, give or take, I stood on the threshold of ordained ministry... the path was far from easy, and I could probably write a book on the ugh-ness of Settlement (two times over)... but I have no regrets.  I have grown and changed so much myself in that time.  I have been privileged to bless babies, conduct weddings, baptise believers, visit sick and dying people, and commend to God's safekeeping those whose lives here are over.  I have been accepted and rejected, challenged and supported,  disappointed and delighted.

I find it hard to believe that ten years has gone by, that I am now an 'established' minister.  "Time flies by when I'm the driver of a train," so sang Lord Bellborough in Chigley.  I would not compare what I do with train driving, but there is something about the journey metaphor that is maybe  appropriate!


  • A thoughtful review and I can identify with so much of it. Happy anniversary.

  • I have same experience at Assembly! I tell them they only still want me because they didn't get me!

  • One church though remains a 'lost' one for me as well.

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