5th February 2017
I have been doing quite a lot of reflection lately, for very good reason. Over the next few weeks, I plan to use my “Ramblings” to share those reflections with you, and I invite you to participate, by doing some of your own.
My reason for doing so is that I have a significant anniversary approaching. I hope you have all seen the notice in this pew leaflet, inviting you to come and help me to celebrate that I have served in this parish for ten years, as of the 16th of this month.
These days, ten years is quite a long time to serve in a parish. My two predecessors here, served for very short terms, because of ill-health. Of course, when one takes up a ministry placement, It is hard to predict what may be the outcomes. Coming to a Parish is a huge leap of faith. It was for me, and I suspect it was also a leap of faith for the wardens at the time, and for all of you – facing your third new priest in only a few years.
Here is an exerpt from my first annual report – in 2007:
“The life of a parish does not begin and end with the appointment of a new Parish Priest, but rather has both a history and a future – a continuity of existence which must be acknowledged, as it is this which helps to form the character of a parish. As your Parish Priest, therefore, I wish to acknowledge formally my awareness of the upheavals you have suffered over the past few years: two very much shortened terms of office, punctuated and interrupted by the illnesses of your Priests.
Some of you have said to me that this is in the past, and that it is time to move on. There is truth in this, but I know others have expressed profound grief and disappointment in the loss of the dreams and visions of those two ministries. Grief is a very real and disturbing part of life, and each of us may experience it differently. We must all work through it in our way. I want to assure you that my aim and intention is to remain to walk with you on this journey for a normal term of office. I can give you no guarantees that I will achieve that aim. I cannot promise more than this: that I believe God has called me to this ministry with you, and that God will also guide, direct and walk alongside us, whatever happens to us along the way.”
So, my task at this time, ten years later, is to reflect on the guidance of God, the direction, and companionship which has been evident. For the first few years, people were quite nervous and tentative, as they wondered whether I would stay. I found this sometimes endearing, and sometimes challenging. I’m sure John will be happy to tell you that I am very stubborn, and when I get my teeth into something, I am like a dog with a bone – I’m there until it’s done. I do not give up easily. (truly, if I did, I would have given up on the church itself – rather than waiting patiently from 1965, when I perceived my call to the priesthood on the night of my Confirmation, until 1992, when they finally ordained women as priests in Melbourne, and then until 2004 to be priested myself!)
In reviewing the attendance numbers from 2007 and 2016, I am surprised to note that there are not large differences – except that the number of weddings has declined somewhat. I believe that this is a cultural phenomenon, rather than a parish one. Fewer people are choosing churches as a venue for weddings. Numbers in all other services have risen and fallen a little year by year – and yet, we have remained strong and vibrant.
When I look around the parish, the changes I notice most are quite practical ones. Improvements in the management of the business of the parish, such as the maintenance of buildings and grounds, establishment of a functioning office, and the development of programs and activities are evident. The achievement, after at least 15 years of planning, of seeing the building project growing in Balnarring, and the proper maintenance of St. John’s beautiful church in Flinders, are important. The adoption of the new requirements for management of a Parish, by the Diocese have been challenging, but we are doing them.
I hope I have been a help in those things.
Yet I see my role as a more Spiritual one. I will continue to reflect on these things over the next few weeks, and I thank the wardens for their willingness to help me celebrate this milestone on the 16th. It is a celebration for all of us. God has richly blessed me in my ministry here so far. This week’s Gospel passage speaks to me powerfully.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Jesus’ words speak directly to you and me. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. Notice he doesn’t say: “you are to be….”? It is already a fact. We are. Ponder upon these powerful statements. We are what adds flavour to the world. We are what sheds light. No matter how long we have been Christians. No matter how long we have tried to serve God in our corner of the world, the responsibility is still there. Through thick and thin, year after year, we continue to be salt and light. Let those who have ears to hear, listen.
God bless your week