At the Methodist Conference, held in Enniskillen in the middle of June 2012, it was confirmed that I will be moving at the start of July to take up responsibility in Ballynahinch Methodist Church. Kathryn, the boys and I have loved living amongst you for the past four years (where did that time go?!), and would have liked to stay for a little while longer, but the move 'up the road' means we won't be too far away.
Indeed, I will continue to be Superintendent of the Circuit as you welcome to your midst the Rev. Ken Connor, his wife Ruth and daughter Janette (and son John, who you may see from time to time). I'll let them introduce themselves to you at their welcome service, on Sunday 15 July at 7pm in Newcastle Methodist Church. Ken and I will continue to develop the pilot Collaborative Leadership project between this Circuit, Ballynahinch and the Lisburn & Dromore Circuit. In particular, I will remain the Downe Hospital Chaplain for the time being; Ken will have some pastoral contact with the folks in Ballynahinch, and I'll continue to be involved in the leadership of 'The Kitchen' (a 'relational network of missional people' currently based in Newcastle) with Kathryn and Mark & Ange Guinn.
As a family we have been blessed these last four years by the friendships we have made, both within and beyond the Methodist folks in this area. Many of you brought us food and support when Micah was born, and then again after the birth of Samuel. Christmas and Easter chocolates have lasted nearly to the Summer each year! We have prayed together, worshipped Jesus together, gone through grief and loneliness and grumpiness together. We have enjoyed serving with people from all the churches in all three areas, with special times of united worship, prayer and outreach, "that the world might believe". We have loved getting to know you, whether in church, school or community contexts. I believe we, and especially our children, have made some friends for life. We have been learning what it means to simply be disciples of Jesus Christ, a family of people who need Him, try to love others well, and follow Him in our being and doing.
The context of the world around us is changing. The signs are there to be seen. As institutions become less trusted, and putting on a 'good show' draws less attention, established churches such as ours need to pay attention to the things that matter. Over my last four services on the Circuit I've spent time with you looking at our relationship with God as Father (Daddy), Son and Holy Spirit. In addition, the lectionary readings from the first week offered four values for being church that I think the Lord would have you focus on in the coming days, weeks, months and years:
- Iteration with Jubilation (allow God's joy to infuse everything you do, your relationship with Him impacting repetitive words and tasks, even those in worship)
- Expect the Unexpected (allow yourselves to dream and pray as if our God can do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine)
- Those Abiding in Love, Love the Belovèd (from the privilege of being loved by God, and recognising that God loves everyone else just as much as he loves you, we mustobey this command to love one another)
- Become Overcomers (our struggle against temptation and the devil is won step by step, day by day when we recognise that we all fail (and therefore we can neither judge nor be judged by others) and that we need each other as brothers and sisters, fellow children of God.)
I offer these values to you again as you take the next steps in mission with Ken, whether that's Relating, Inspiring and Educating in Dundrum; Sharing, Encouraging and Worshipping in Newcastle, or; Worshipping, Serving and Sharing in Downpatrick.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, encourage you and challenge you, as you continue on your journey towards perfect love. Thank you for allowing us to accompany you for just a short stretch of that journey.
With lots of love,
Ross, Kathryn, Timothy, Micah and Samuel.