I’m writing from the 7th floor in the centre of Milton Keynes in temporary accommodation before we move to Bromham Vicarage near Bedford where my wife Catherine is to be Vicar and I am still seeking a new ministry wherever God calls and leads me.
I look back over more than 15 years at Great Chart, Singleton and in the last 2 years at St Francis South Ashford too after being part of the formation of the Ashford Town Team Ministry. A place where our 4 children have grown up and left home and a place and people we have loved and will continue to love and where we have experienced and known such love and friendship and care and support and encouragement as well as many challenges.
On the final notice sheet I oversaw I included a verse from the end of the Book of Acts where St Luke records St Paul stating how in every town he visited where he planted a church he appointed elders to continue and lead the work of the Gospel so that all should know the Good News of Jesus Christ.
When I arrived in summer 2003 i was encouraged by how many people were active and busy in the church including in the services reading the bible, prayers as well as conducting services and preaching. I am so encouraged that this has continued and grown so as I leave I see God has raised up so many wonderful people with wonderful gifts to use for God’s glory and the building up and encouragement of the church of Jesus Christ.
But I also look back and think how many things I was involved with at every level. Paul saw the importance of appointing elders, but I wonder if what I inherited were many deacons? Let me explain. Lots of people think their role in the church is to help and assist the Vicar in their ministry. So we wait to be told what to do. Nothing happens unless the Vicar wants it or asks someone to do it. This is not a sustainable model as what happens when the Vicar leaves, is taken ill or is simply not around on holiday etc? Yes the church needs Deacons, those who serve and will just get along side and help and offer themselves to support other people and the work of others. And yes this is part of ordained Ministry. Priests, Bishops and Archbishops start and remain ordained as Deacons at the heart of their ministry.
But St Paul appointed Elders – Presbyters – where we get our word ‘Priest’ from. Those who would take a lead, initiate, and draw in and encourage others in new ministries amongst the people of God to reach out to others. I can’t put a date on it as God so often works away quietly within and amongst us to change us. But certainly the last few years have been marked by many new things amongst our churches and congregations that I’ve not initiated or asked someone to do, but I have certainly encouraged and been encouraged by. We have more licenced readers than when I came and other licenced and authorised ministers, as well as those who are recognised and affirmed in leadership across the congregations whether they are on the leadership teams or not. So whilst I do not know what the future leadership of the growing work will look like, I do leave confident that God has raised up leadership in a team or people who work and minister together.
I shall miss living and working amongst you all enormously, but it is Gods church and He raises up deacons who serve, elders/presbyters who lead and we as the church and those who lead us need to continue to discern who they are, support and encourage them, pray for them and work with them.
Thank you for how you have so tirelessly worked with me. And I mean with me, not for me. May the church of Jesus Christ in Great Chart, Singleton, St Francis and across all of Ashford continue to grow for His Glory.