Having returned from a lovely few days in The Peak District, we set about doing all that was necessary for our last week in the Haldon Team of eight churches and today’s Farewell Service. House moving plans in place (and no, we’ve not packed yet, to answer all those who keep asking…), the local vicar had two baptisms, a funeral, a church annual meeting, a school visit as well as the usual Sunday services and countless emails – let alone doing all that is needed in one’s last week in a job (a feeling you are probably familiar with).
Forward planning was the order of the day (every day). We planned the Farewell Service, I wrote my bits for it as well as preparing a Bible Study and teaching session on the church and mental health for this weekend’s SWMTC residential and a quiet day for retired clergy the day before we move (and some other upcoming events).
And then, it happened… just a cough at first but by Thursday morning, the cry from Jane: ‘I’ve got Covid!’
Suddenly, everything changed.
Suddenly, everything was cancelled.
It’s not the way we wanted to say goodbye. It’s not the way others wanted to bid us farewell either.
Sure, the Farewell Service can be rearranged but it won’t be the same. Returning simply to say goodbye doesn’t seem quite the best thing.
After 18 months of praying, discerning, seeking advice and waiting it all seems somewhat of an anti-climax. The added irony being that having seen the churches through the pandemic lockdowns, Jane had escaped the virus until now.
So today is a rather low-key day on which to be finishing. But we look forward to moving on and being by the still waters than run in the brook alongside the new vicarage.
Events such as these lead one to inevitably wonder about what’s going on, don’t they?
Of course, what has happened to us is relatively minor in comparison to some of the sudden (and not so sudden) changes that many endure. We think of two men we know called John who have both had recent diagnoses of life-limiting cancer. We think of the mother whose daughter took her own life leaving behind a young child. We think of the victim of a tragic car accident.
The unexpected twist and turn of events raise that question of ‘why does God allow these things to happen?’ or similar such searching, meaning of life type issues.
Some take the view that God is some sort of despotic figure punishing people – that’s not a view I take, by the way. (Please don’t let it be yours: God’s not like that at all.)
Some would say it’s the Devil at work, attacking those who experience good things and have close encounters with God. While I believe in the existence of evil and the Devil (and his meddling), I don’t give him the attention he craves – and instead focus on God and the existence of love.
Some would say it’s not God’s fault: these things that happen are part of human life. A difficult part, yes, and something that everyone experiences at times. There is a mystery to some of them. There are ones about which we only understand the reason at a later stage. There are those where actually God was very present within them – within the storms of life, the times of change. (The irony is not lost on me given my book on the subject!). We may not like God because of them at times but God loves us all the same.
Our house now resembles a florist’s and a branch of Clintons. Another example of those demonstrations of God’s love and presence have been found in lovely messages we’ve received in response to this unexpected turn of events, one of which read:
Aaagghh…. Praying a variation on that theme, that you will have the strength to do what can still be done, (especially your move), the peace of mind to accept what can’t be, and the wisdom to know the difference….. and the unfailing grace of God in all things…
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Details of my books are available at richardfrostauthor.com