Now the bright morning-star, Dayes harbinger, Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose. Hail bounteous May that dost inspire Mirth and youth, and warm desire, Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing, Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early Song, And welcom thee, and wish thee long.
My children are clever souls – and Rachel (our younger daughter) takes a picture, every year of her children holding a picture of themselves from the year before. This is Emily. If you look carefully you should see at least five years of her growing up! This one was taken last April and before we have seen this year’s picture. I assure you she has changed a good deal since then, but is still our lovely, kind Emily. Of course, we are hopelessly biased, but it is such a thrill to see things growing and changing and especially when things are grandchildren.
When you are reading this, we will be safely on Sabbatical and if all goes to plan, up to our elbows in the garden and allotment. It is such a brilliant time of year to be in the garden, plants grow super-fast, and you can almost see them changing as you watch. Plants want to thrive and, if you get it even half right, they do. Your efforts are so richly rewarded, far and away above even your hardest efforts. As you know I often see the Church as being a bit like an allotment. When caring about plants you do need to plan, and it is the same with Church – and we do the Church equivalents of digging, sowing, weeding and watering. But when together we get things even half right, what God can do with all that thoughtful effort is extraordinary. It is all God’s grace and goodness, and areas that seemed a bit barren and dull begin to flower and fruit and fill you with happiness. Our going away means that when we come back at the end of July, we will see a lot of changes. A lot of people have already worked very hard in various areas of the Church life and, through that Grace of God, it is our hope that we will come back to new and exciting things! In the garden, even a week away can be such a thrill when you return to walk around and see all the new things. I wonder what it will be like? What our Church will be like a year in May 2018? Perhaps we should take a picture every year of us holding a picture of the year before. There will be loss and sadness because change nearly always means loss and sadness, but there will also be good new things, new people, new challenges, new hopes and ideas.
We will be truly missing you while on Sabbatical; we are enjoying our ministry quite as much as our garden! But we are excited about what changes will happen while we are away, and even more the changes and new life we will see as we journey together on our return. God’s grace is so wonderful, and the promise made compelling and full of joy.
Mark and Judith’s Sabbatical 19th April – 19th July 2017
Methodist Ministers have their first Sabbatical after they have served for ten years, and afterwards every seven years. They must submit a plan for how they will use the time, and decide with a small group who oversee all the arrangements needed to make it possible. We have filled all the plan dates, and meetings, and Nik will carry the responsibilities I normally do. Thanks, Nik! It is a great gift of the Church to its ministers and is much appreciated by them. The Sabbatical is for three months and its purpose is to refresh and invigorate! This is my third Sabbatical as I started in circuit in 1982. I have used my previous ones to complete academic work and Judith continued teaching. This one is different because it will probably be our last one. We expect to retire in 2022 if we are allowed to. They have moved the retirement age since we started, but we’ve decided that if we can afford to go at our original finishing date we will! We are, therefore, using the Sabbatical to help us think how we will live after retirement. We will look at our ministry together as ‘active supernumeraries’ and we have planned two longer retreats and some pilgrimage days on the way to Canterbury. How will we continue to serve the Church? We will also explore our hobbies and are spending time at RHS Wisely on several day courses to learn more about what we love doing. We will also visit various possible places where we might retire, checking out the area, visiting churches, and getting a feel as much as you can while staying in a campervan. Apart from that we have the ambition to sort out the Manse garden which is still in a bit of a state. We hope it will be ready for the Garden Party on the 29th of July (details in next Focus) when you are invited to check up on how we have got on and have some cake!
If you need to speak to a minister during my Sabbatical please contact Rev Nik Wooller or Rev Dr David Dickinson (the Circuit Superintendent) 020 8643 6884.
Thank you for giving us this time. We know it is a privilege and we are grateful. Pray for us as we will continue to pray for you.