Recalling my valediction from college is always a little bit bittersweet.
The lovely event (midweek that year) coincided with the day a church was voting on whether or not to call me. At the end of happy evening the phone call came and it was a 'no'.
Everyone who knows me already knows I remain utterly convinced God called me to that church. That doesn't mean God didn't call me to Dibley or to the Gathering Place, I am equally convinced that God did. God's 'Plan B' is never second best.
The good bits of ministry are so much better, and the bad bits so much worse, than I ever think possible. And that day, seventeen years ago, that was profoundly illustrated.
The day after that decision I led prayers in college chapel - and was commended for being courageous. A fellow student sent me some beautiful flowers. My tutors and peers came alongside in ways that were gentle and supportive. I was offered - and declined - an opt out from the wider Partnership valedictory. Seventeen years on, some of my peers and tutors have died. Some have moved into new forms of ministry, and some have left ministry. But they remain 'my' people.
The old hymn, 'Great is thy Faithfulness' remains a favourite, with its determined faith in adversity, of a God who always gives me - and us - strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
So now I call to mind Stephen, Nick, Gary, Andy and Diane, my peers at that time, and Richard, Rachel, Sean, Brian and Anne, my tutors, and I thank God for them all.