I am writing this farewell column in the first week of Advent. The Christmas Tree Festival is in full swing, and the carol concerts are about to begin in earnest. There is no doubt about it, Crediton does Christmas very well. This one is the last one of my curacy, and I am savouring it. Over the next few weeks I will be marking off a series of lasts, my last PCC meeting, my last Messy Church, my last Advent Procession, and on Epiphany Sunday, 5th January, 2020, my last service at curate at Crediton Parish Church.
Where have the past three and a half years gone? The time has flown by. Mine has not been an uneventful curacy, we had a long vacancy to ride out, and many of you will know that I have had serious family health issues to deal with. At times I have felt sorely tested, but there has been much joy and laughter too. As I reflect on my time in the Crediton Benefice Mission Community, there are two key aspects of life in our community that stand out, these are kindness and friendship, and I have received both in abundance. But these gifts are not reserved for curates alone, and I have seen that same kindness and friendship shared freely, time and time again amongst us all. Such precious gifts are the markers of a healthy community and a loving church family, and make all our lives sweeter. It is not going to be easy to say goodbye, and I have a good supply of paper hankies in reserve.
So a new chapter in my ministry is beginning, and I would like to tell you a little about where it will unfold. On 23rd January, 2020, I shall be installed as Vicar of the Alham Vale Benefice in Somerset, a group of five rural parishes not far from Shepton Mallet. For the Steam Engine aficionados and the John Betjeman fans among you, I shall be living very near to the famed Evercreech Junction, in the village of Evercreech itself. God has been good to me, it is a very beautiful area, and I am fortunate to have several friends living near by. As an added bonus, there are of a number of my old Cuddesdon college alumni serving in parishes just a short drive away. All this, in addition to the excellent introduction to ministry in a multi-parish rural benefice that my curacy has given, fills me with hope that God has a plan for me, and I shall have Matthew on speed-dial too, just in case of emergency!
I want to send out a heartfelt thank you to everyone across our mission community. You have been wonderful, supportive, patient and kind, and I shall not forget you. Please do come along to my farewell “Bring and Share lunch” on Sunday 5th January at 12 noon for 12.30 in the Boniface Centre if you can, I would love to see you there. There is a list to sign in church for offers of hot savoury food/cold sweets. In addition, if you would like to venture further a field and check out your curates new domain, Mike May is organising a coach to my institution and installation. This will take place at 7pm in St Mary the Virgin, Batcombe, on Thursday 23rd January, 2020. Do please speak to Mike if you would like to book a place, cost £10. It would be great to fill the coach and pews with friends from Devon. There will be buns and fizz in the village hall afterwards.
So dear friends…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.