4th Sunday in Lent – Evensong – St Matthias

Leaving is such a strange thing. In many ways I feel like the baby Moses, set adrift in his small basket on the waters of the Nile, moving from the known into the unknown. St. Matthias has been our home since early 2005 and a lot has happened in those six years both personally and in the life of St. Matthias and our Team Ministry.

It has been a privilege to share those years with you. There are qualities about the shared life of our team, but particularly St. Matthias that I have valued very highly. Perhaps most of all I value the fact that we are such a diverse congregation – I know that it makes it much harder to build around a shared identity, but it makes a place where many feel welcome who do not feel welcome elsewhere.

I have really appreciated the way that people always endeavour to do things well, but when things do not happen quite as we expected it never feels like the end of the world here. And there

is a willingness to try new things that I feel is vital to our life together, a recognition that to let go of something is not to undervalue it, but to remember that we are a pilgrim people, always being called to move forward however painful that may be at times.

To be part of the wider team has also been a great blessing. It gives a richness to our life together that we could not achieve apart. It has been very special to be able to get to know people at the other churches and, particularly during the interregnum of the Team Rector’s post, to be involved with the church leadership across the team. It has also been a pleasure to be part of such a warm and friendly deanery and diocese. One of my fondest memories of Southwark Cathedral is going to the Maundy Thursday service and seeing a cathedral full of amazing diversity. The richness of colleagues both lay and ordained has been a real gift and something that I am sure that I will miss greatly in my new post.

There are also some things that you see from the priests point of view, that might not be so obvious to others. For example in the 9:30am service, I love the way that when you lift up the host in the Eucharistic prayer, it is echoed in our beautiful wheel window. I love the way that in the 8am service, the host is broken before it is raised – it has been a constant reminder to me that we are not offering to God our beauty and perfection, but our brokenness and willingness to be shared out for the benefit of the people of God.
Of course, sometimes I could see more surreal things too – I remember the Easter day when the snow came down, and after Christmas, when I looked up to see the sheep, left behind after a school production, watching me from the balcony with a hat on.

One of the things that tends to happen when you stay for any length of time in one place, is that you acquire words, phrases and mannerisms from the people around you. Despite having married into a Scottish family, I don’t think that I would say “ach” without the time that I spent working with Clare Moore.

Nor would I ever have thought about what my wishes for the future of St. Matthias would be without Serena. But I didn’t feel that I could leave you without offering three wishes for you all, so here they are:

My first wish is that you would continue to build upon the sense of community that you have together, letting it carry you forward into God’s future together. To use one of my favourite verses from Isaiah: “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54 v.2

My second wish is that you will find a renewed vision for the work with our children and young people. One of my proudest moments at St. Matthias was the congregational meeting where our children were listened to and valued as part of our discussions about worship. It has been a real joy to watch children growing into their church family and taking their place with confidence as an integral part of their community and I hope that you will continue to help our children grow in their faith and to receive the insights that they bring.

My third wish, is that you would tell good stories about your life together. Not in the sense of making things up, but the ways in which we think and talk about ourselves make a huge difference not only to our own lives, but in the case of churches, to the way that the gospel is proclaimed. If we think of and talk about ourselves as too small, too busy, too tired, then these will be the reality.

It is true that in the last six years we have given over too many of our congregation into God’s care, and this has of course had a huge impact on our life together. We have also experienced the transitory nature of living in Richmond as many people have moved away.
But I hope that with my leaving you will in some way be freer to move beyond those losses and begin to celebrate who and what you are now, rather than grieving for what you are not. Good stories are the way in which we share our faith and you have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for.

And finally, thank you to you all. To everyone in the team – never think that you are insignificant, our churches would be diminished with out you. Thank you to clergy colleagues and to Gill, to Barbara our Centre manager, to all of you who have served as wardens, sat on committees, read, prayed made tea and cared for each other. If I could leave you with a text for the interregnum it would be those words from Colossians,

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

 

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