July sees the end of the school year, and here in Leicestershire that comes at least a fortnight earlier than it did in the north west (here schools close on 11 July; to my knowledge in parts of Cheshire it'll be 25th). As the school year closes, so life slows down for 4-8 weeks, organisations take a break, congregations dwindle and I am trying to work out why it seemed a good idea to undertake two conference papers and a two week, 200 mile, long distance footpath this summer!
Yesterday I posted off the first, completed, paper to Manchester University and, although it has its limitations, there was definitely a sense of closure as I handed the envelope to the woman in the Post Office. Had to smile, wryly, when she asked if it was valuable or precious - irreplaceable but worthless I replied! In the end I sent it Special Delivery which is evidently safer than Recorded...
Today is the Girls' Brigade end of year parents' evening. Last night I was printing off programmes (grand title for hymn sheets really!) and trying to think just which songs the non-church-going parents and family members might possibly know (and wondering why we have to sing when no-one joins in anyway). So I will once more endure 'Give me oil in my lamp' which was the bain of my teenage years when every visiting preacher thought it was original to relate it to the lamp that sits at the base of the GB crest... It's been a good year, and we've had some fun along the way. Lots of changes afoot though, as one of the leaders steps back and we seek to work with a small team of church members who've agreed to act together to cover her role. I hope the girls enjoy this evening - and I hope that whatever I end up saying for the devotional bit carries meaning for them.
A week on Friday is our last ever Kids Club. This Friday as the main leader is away, I will be standing in, and hope to be able to find from the children how they'd like to mark the end of this chapter it their lives. The last year has been challenging, with some horrendous behaviour and a leader forced to stand down due to major illness, yet whenever I see the children out and about they seem genuinely pleased to see me. I do hope we have given them something to last a lifetime - and not just memories of me telling them I will not tolerate racist/sexist/homophobic/bad language! I have yet to work out how to mark this closure in church, but it needs to be done - and the consequences faced.
Then on 18th July bidding closes on our defunct building. Because I will be regaling people with my thoughts on Baptist historiography, and because many deacons are away that week, we cannot review the bids until the following Monday, but the hope is that sale will then go through in around 28 days bringing closure to another chapter of church life.
It is strange - but quite pleasant - having a fairly empty diary at the moment, though I am mad enough to have three services to take on 13th July, have accepted a guest preach a hundred miles away on 20th (when I land back in England at midnight!) and another at my 'sending church' the day between finishing my hike and starting my second conference! As things close down for summer, there seem to be some natural conclusions occurring - which inevitably are the heralds of new beginnings yet to be discovered.