Tag Archives: faith

Defiant Hope

(this is my contribution to a community creative project called 20one17, this time with a loose theme of defiant hope. If you are reading this before 5pm GMT on 20/1/17 then feel free to get involved. Contributions can be as simple as a photo. For more details see 20one17 Defiant Hope ).

We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion just as effectively as bombs. Kenneth Clark

I am by nature something of an optimist. I tend to assume the best about people (at least when it comes to others). But yet there is this constant pull towards a glass mostly empty approach. Cynicism and disillusionment draw me like an old armchair, comfy and cosy and far easier to sink into than get out of. 

By contrast remaining positive feels like trudging up a hill with a heavy pack on my back. Each news article read adds a stone to the bag. Each friend going through a difficult time covers my shoes in sticky mud.

It would be easier by far to just rest a while in ease.

But that will not do. Because one of the untruths I choose to believe as I sink into that armchair is that I will not be changed. If I spend my time assuming the worst, pointing out all that is bad in the world, do I really think that my heart will not shrink, that my eyes will not be downcast? And if my eyes are downcast, then how will I be able to see the good? Especially when the bad is often louder, brasher and more in your face, while good keeps a lower profile in the shadows. 
Is it any surprise that nothing changes, as I spend my time pointing out ills from my chair?

The thing with cynicism is it sucks all the joy out of life. Disillusion paralyses.

So today I choose to lift myself up out of that chair. To stretch muscles that have not been worked for a while, to lift my eyes and peer into the shadows. Because the more bad, the greater the shadows. But there is more good there than I think if I choose to look and to see. 

I want to live with naive optimism, doggedly determined idealism, and most of all, defiant hope. Hope is more than just wishful thinking, or denial of reality. Hope is choosing to believe there is inherent good in people, that systems can be changed, that the world can be better. Hope is the power that will clean the mud from my shoes, and grind stones to dust. It will strengthen my muscles, so though the walk will still be uphill, and there will still be stones and mud, it will be achievable. Hope is the strength to keep my head up, my eyes looking towards the horizon, and hope is the faith that for all of the effort, for all of the trials, the views at the top, and on the way up, will be staggering, full of beauty and wonder.

It’s best not to confuse optimism with hope. Optimism is a pyschological attitude towards life. Hope goes further. It is an anchor that one hurls towards the future, it’s what lets you pull on the line and reach what you’re aiming for and head in the right direction. Hope is also theological; God is there too. Pope Francis

Being Still

Too many voices it won’t take long
which one’s right and which one’s wrong
and yours is most likely to be misunderstood…

and I am contemplating matters
all this cling and clatter
in my head and what you said
is ringing, ringing faster.
Lifehouse- Cling and Clatter

We are told we need silence, away from all the distractions- from the TV, computer hum, vibrating mobile, chatter around, music in my ears.

So I still myself, sit down for silence
And I find noise:
Cars racing past outside, a whispered conversation, creaking chairs, the scratch of a pen on paper.
And louder than all that, the chatter in my head.
New to do lists, new to don’t lists. A new year, new resolutions- about attitude, character, action, aspirations. There is never enough time, there will never be enough time. And so like a constant backdrop the question of ‘Is this a waste of time?’.

Is it a waste of time to sit, still, in silence when there is so much to be done?

As I wrote that last line the traffic stopped, just for a few seconds and there was no noise- just for a moment.

Long enough for me to hear my heart beating- too fast for one sitting still
Long enough to hear the clamour of accusing voices internally ‘not good enough’
Long enough to hear God?

I am not one to think that one cannot hear God through music, or through the noise of a city. I am an urban dweller, a millennial, my life has had a soundtrack. I have had to learn to hear God above the din of everyday life.
Surely that should be within the din of everyday life?

And who says everyday life should be full of din anyway? Perhaps I have got so used to noise- external and internal that I can’t conceive of it any other way.
But there is a yearning for quiet, that makes itself felt whenever I find myself, rarely, in a quiet place. Mindfulness, I guess some would call it. A desire for internal quiet if not always external quiet. The Bible talks of peace and being still.

Perhaps it was easier for them then. But I don’t imagine I am so different from them. Perhaps their world was quieter, but I’m sure their hearts were just as capable of noise and din.

Be still,
and know that I am God.

Perhaps the yearning isn’t for quiet but to know God, to allow myself long enough to focus back on the One who sustains me, to be reminded that it doesn’t depend on me.

 

So this year I will try 15 minutes a week of silence. Perhaps doing something like writing, or colouring in; indoors or outdoors. But silent, no background music and in a quiet place (though inevitably there will be background noise).

 

[this was written during a reflective service last week, so it is in a slightly different style than my normal writing. I wanted to post it as a form of accountability to this intention]

To love, cherish….and obey?

I, (name), take you, (name)
to be my wife/husband,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, [and obey]
till death us do part,
according to God’s holy law.
In the presence of God I make this vow.
from The Marriage Service, Common Worship (Church of England) 

I got married a few weeks ago, and we opted to go for the more traditional wording of the vows. While the man says “to love and to cherish”, the woman’s vows say “to love, cherish and obey”. It’s funny how a single word can cause so much angst, but this one does. Not particularly because it is in there, but because, while the rest of the vows are the same for men and women, only the woman ‘obeys’.

I am sure that, if they noticed it, some of my feminist friends will have gasped (internally- I didn’t hear any out loud gasping, so well done) at the inherent inequality of it. But it wasn’t a mistake, I haven’t lost my mind, and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. This blog is an attempt to explain to those who find it surprising my rationale behind making that decision. You may well not agree with me at the end of it, but at least you will hopefully understand more why I chose that route. (It will also act as a reminder for me on the days I am feeling disobedient why I made the promises I did.)

Firstly, and very importantly, it was my choice. Part of my understanding of the importance and role of feminism, is that it gives women the power to make choices in decisions that impact them, rather than decisions being made on their behalf. Of course, I discussed it, at length, with Husband and I was aware of his preference. Of course that influenced my decision; the opinions of those we love always do. But Husband was also clear that it was entirely my choice as to the final decision. These are vows that we have made before God and each other, and we intend to take those promises very seriously. Husband certainly didn’t want to  make me promise something that I didn’t agree with and didn’t intend to stick to.

We set out the boundaries in our discussions. In saying that I will obey Husband, that doesn’t mean anything he says I have to do. It is not a case that he clicks his fingers and I jump. In promising to obey, I have not surrendered my ability to discuss, disagree or express my opinion! For us, this bit of the vows is particularly pertinent to big decisions that we come across in life; for example, a decision on where any children we have go to school, not the colour of the curtains. We are taking about situations where a decision has to be made, but after discussing it, both listening to the other’s point of view, praying about it, discussing and praying some more, we still have different ideas of the best course of action.  A democracy of 2 simply can get stuck. In those situations, someone needs the casting vote. I guess this is my pragmatic side coming through in making this choice. We’ve decided that our default is for Husband to have that casting vote. Sometimes it might be me, depending on the situation. An obvious example is my work. Obviously Husband doesn’t have jurisdiction over my work decisions,  but it may well be that with other decisions we decide that it makes sense for me to have the final decision.

While we are talking about work, there was another aspect I had not considered before Husband raised it. He reminded me that in my future line of work (being a vicar), I am likely to be responsible for making a lot of decisions, every day. We cannot always predict the outcome of our decisions, but we all carry the weight of responsibility for the decisions we make. In a profession such as the priesthood (but also many other careers such as social work, teaching, nursing etc.), our decisions can have profound long term impacts on people’s lives, for good or ill. That’s a lot of responsibility. Husband’s job, on the other hand, while it involves decision making as all life does, doesn’t involve the same type of decisions. By taking on the role of lead decision maker in the family, he is also taking on the responsibility that carries, and taking it off me. He is not doing this to gain power over me, but to love and help me. (This again doesn’t mean that I am passive in decision making, nor does it mean I won’t take ownership of decisions we reach, nor that if it goes wrong I will ascribe blame to Husband, but he will still carry more weight of responsibility simply by having made the decision).

We would be foolish if we didn’t acknowledge that by me vowing to obey, I have handed power over to Husband. Not complete power, but there is still the possibility that he could abuse his position, demanding I obey in every decision, or make decisions that are in his interest, not ours as a family. In spite of all the other reasons above, this was the crux of it for me: Do I trust Husband? Do I trust him to make good decisions on our behalf, decisions which I can get behind and support because I know that they are made with love and thought and care? Do I trust him not to abuse this power? Yes, I do. If I couldn’t say yes to this, I couldn’t marry him at all.

The final part to my thinking, and possibly the most controversial, is that we want our marriage to model (as imperfectly as it may be) the relationship between Jesus Christ, and His bride, the Church. There is a really difficult and awkward passage in the New Testament which reads “21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy” (Ephesians 5:21-25. New International Version).

I don’t have space to unpack this passage fully now*. I find this a really uncomfortable passage, and it has been misused to cause great harm to many women down the centuries (specifically verse 22 “Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands”- those who misuse it tend to ignore the previous verse which is abundantly clear “Submit to one another” and verse 25). I might rail against the patriarchical society that first wrote it, but I can’t get away from it saying the wife should submit to the husband in the same way the Church submits to Christ. Admittedly, the Church (which is all Christians, not just specific denominations or groups meeting in a particular building), is in many ways terrible at submitting to (i.e. obeying) Christ Jesus. The list of ways in which the Church doesn’t follow Jesus’ teaching is shamefully long. But, for all its failings, the Church at its very core is trying to follow Jesus and be obedient.

I know that some of you will still be choking on verse 22-24, as do I (especially that “in everything” phrase). But remember the mutuality of verse 21 “Submit to one another”- the give and take of relationships, and when I keep reading I reach “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. Too often we never reach this verse, but quite frankly, having read this, I think I have the better deal. My Husband is meant to love me in the same way that Christ loved the Church: i.e. he is meant to show me the same self-sacrificing, costly love that led Jesus to set aside His own desires, comfort and well-being, and led Him to the cross. If Husband is making decisions with that attitude and approach, they are likely to be decisions which are in our best interests, and easy for me to agree with (though not necessarily easy to enact). I think husbands have the harder task in this passage.

When I started writing this blog, I didn’t expect to end up writing about Ephesians 5. I probably wouldn’t have started writing it if I had. Promising to obey is controversial these days, and talk of submission even more so. I expect may who read this will still disagree with my decision, but it is done, and though he will not always get it right, I trust Husband to love me well.

 

* Here are some blogs which look at this passage/the idea of submission in more depth. The first is from a writer whose book ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ was one of the most liberating things I’ve read. The other two are written from a queer theology perspective.

Rachel Held Evans – Humility without Hierarchy

Queer Ephesians 5:21-6:9 – Guest Post Ben Allison

Queer Ephesians 5:21-33 – Wives be Subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord

 

When “If” becomes “When” again

Just over 3 years ago I started this blog. Various friends were encouraging me to try blogging as they knew I enjoyed writing, but the final trigger was me writing a piece called ‘When “When” becomes “If”’.  Click the link to read the full piece but in summary it was about me attempting to come to terms with the idea I might never get married.

Two years ago I wrote about my foray into online dating with ‘Choosing a balloon’. Well, much to my surprise, it went very well. (Letting you into a secret, my chosen ‘balloon’ helped edit that piece, though we hadn’t quite started dating at that time). Now I find myself no longer considering ‘if’ I will get married, but ‘when’.

In fact, the ‘when’ is imminent. In 8 days I will be standing next to the man I love, making my marriage vows in front of God, a vicar and a whole crowd of friends and family. And I am SO EXCITED!

I can’t wait till I get to legally commit my life to this wonderful man, can’t wait till we get to live together, till our daily patterns and routines are tied up and intermingled with each others. I am excited about getting to know him ever better, and being known by him more deeply every day (and yes, I’m looking forward to sex too). I’m also looking forward to seeing where God takes us and gets us doing in ministry together.

Married friends tell me it’s the little things that are the biggest things in a way. I know I am looking forward to being able to come home to a hug after a hard day, to having a sounding board for my concerns, ideas and visions (maybe that’s not a small thing), being able to curl up next to a human radiator on cold days, and having someone who will keep the DVDs and bookshelves ordered. I know he is looking forward to me making crumble (probably some other things too, my crumble isn’t that outstanding!). I’m enjoying the excitement in anticipating the wonderful ordinariness of doing life together.

 But I am also  terrified. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m about to make some of the biggest promises I will ever make. I mean, what if it’s all a terrible mistake? What if I am not enough for him? What if I hurt him? What if things go wrong? What if I am a rubbish wife?

Deep breath: it isn’t; I’m not; I will; they will; I will be sometimes; but that’s ok.

Let me unpack that a bit more. It is a lifetime commitment, and a lifetime is (God willing) a long time to be with someone if it’s all a terrible mistake. Except, if I had even the inkling that this was the wrong move, I wouldn’t be making it. I’ve had plenty of time to consider what I’d want in a husband, and God has provided it, and more. Husband-to-be and I have now had a couple of years of getting to know each other, and while that might seem fast for some people, we’ve approached this with prayer and openness and the support of friends and family (who would tell us if they thought it was an error of judgement on our part).

I won’t be enough for him. I never will, I never should be. Well not in the sense of being able to satisfy all his needs. He won’t be enough for me either. For both of us, our first priority is our faith and our relationship with God. God is the only one that would ever be enough for either of us. We will need other friends as well. If we only have each other our relationship will get claustrophobic and inward looking. We want to be generous in our marriage- and that includes hospitality, time, and love for others. Having said all that, Husband-to-be is more than enough for me in terms of a romantic partner- I won’t be looking anywhere else for romance.

I will hurt him. I have already, I will again. Because I am human, and flawed and will be selfish and misjudge situations. We have quite different points of view on some things, and I am convinced that one of the reasons God has brought us together is that we can show each other the world from a different viewpoint. My prayer is that I don’t him hurt deliberately. But when we hurt each other, I will work to forgive and restore anything we have lost in our relationship. That’s the same when things go wrong, which they will. We have already faced a number of fairly stressful situations in the past year alone, so I know that though they are hard work, we will work hard to keep communicating, keep loving, keep growing closer together. Sometimes the things that go wrong won’t be our fault, and then we will need to hold each other tight and support each other through it. When it is our fault we will still need to hold each other tight and support each other through it.

I am certain there will be times when I am not the wife that I think he deserves. Sometimes that might be because I am setting my expectations unrealistically high, and in fact am trying to be ‘super-wife’. I know then that he will remind me that I can’t do everything and remind me I am loved anyway. At other times I will get my priorities wrong, or let him down in some way and then I will need to apologise.

It is daunting, and I think that is right. After all I am about to step into the greatest adventure of my life. The adventure that all my other life adventures will be contained and framed by. It is also thrilling. I know that in amongst all the unknowns, all the highs and lows that the future brings, God will be with us. However much we fail each other, or hurt each other, or have reason to celebrate and rejoice, and however much we love; God loves us more, and He is faithful and will not leave us without support.

Into the Unknown

We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs. 
Kenneth Clark

I’ve woken this morning to the news I didn’t want to hear- we have decided to leave the EU. This makes me incredibly sad, and judging by my facebook newsfeed there is an awful lot of hurt, disappointment, anger and concern about what this means. Given the opinion polls suggest that the youngest generations are those that primarily wanted to remain (and many of my friends are in London), it is unsurprising that I can name only 2 people who I know voted Leave amongst my friendship group.

However, this is how democracy works (and let us not forget that we are often deeply suspicious of countries that don’t do democracy like we think it should be done). So now I have a choice: I could sit back, and watch as a decision I disagreed with, but the majority wanted, starts to take effect. Basically, I could sulk and refuse to play because we are not playing the game that I wanted to play. I could hope it fails because then I can say ‘I told you so’.

Or, I can accept that this is the decision the country has made, the country I am still a citizen of, and desperately want to be proud to belong to. I can accept it, and fight to make it work the best it can for all citizens.

It is indeed a new day for Britain, and we have made a clear statement that we want to go in a new direction. Well let’s make that the best direction it possibly can be. Whether we voted Leave or Remain, we all will live with the result. So I want to say that I want to make Britain the best place it can be. I know those who voted Leave also want to make Britain better, and while I might have different ideas about what ‘better’ looks like, perhaps we can commit to putting the divisive nature of the campaigns behind us, and find ways to walk forward together.

I am probably being woefully idealistic, but I’d rather hold up the highest standard and attempt to reach it (and fail), than settle for less. So this is what I will try to do moving forward (you will notice it is entirely unmanageable and unachievable on my own- please join me).

  • I will try to remember that many who voted differently to me are rational, loving, generous and equally idealistic people. Just because their logic differs from mine as to how to go about achieving a better world, doesn’t mean I should dismiss it, but I must listen to concerns and ideas on all sides.
  • If in a few years’ time it has all gone horribly wrong, I will not blame those who voted Leave and thus cause more division.
  • I will fight misinformation
  • I will hold politicians and the media to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. I will encourage them when they are doing well, and refuse to play the game of letting personal attacks sway my political opinion.
  • I will fight for justice for all, not just those who are white, middle-class and British. I will fight to see the UK become a world-leading example on tackling head on issues such as climate change, environmental damage, and wealth inequality. I will encourage us as a society to do this by getting our own house in order before lecturing others, but also by walking the journey alongside other countries.
  • I will remain compassionate, generous and hospitable to those who are different from us, whether that’s differences in class, sexuality, race, faith etc and whether from inside our borders or not, and I will encourage those around me to do the same.

My faith drives a great deal of this, and while the above list is hugely optimistic, and probably entirely unrealistic, I believe in a God that has given us agency to affect change (both positive and negative), who can perform miracles (and that includes in changing complex structures) and who is the source of love. When I am feeling empty of love or compassion I can ask the God who freely provides to refill me.

I am sincere in my desire to want to see our country and our world become a better place. The sharp reality of that is that, whether inside the EU or not, I am in control primarily of my own attitude and behaviour, and that is where I must start with creating a better world.

End of the (prayer) line

I have trouble praying for healing, specifically healing for terminal illnesses. There, I said it. It may surprise some of you to hear me say that, it may hurt some. After all, don’t I want people to get better?

Yes! Of course I do! But I can’t quite bring myself to pray for it. It’s not like I am not sure that praying for healing makes a difference. I have friends who have been supernaturally healed (and not so supernaturally, medical science is after all a wonderful gift from God). A year ago I was blessed to be sat next to a man as he got up and ran around the room as his torn cruciate ligament miraculous healed. I know God can, and does, heal, though I do not understand why it doesn’t always happen.

So why do I not pray for those who are dying? Well I certainly do pray for them: I pray for relief from pain, for good medical care, for courage, for emotional and spiritual healing and above all I pray their faith (whether they have it or not) grows and deepens, and they know God’s loving presence with them. But I don’t tend to pray they are healed.

I guess there are a number of reasons for it: a few years ago I started to realise just how bad we are at dealing with death in Britain. Our society is obsessed with not ageing (it’s a sign of getting closer to death), with creating for ourselves a slice of immortality through fame or at least our families remembering us. I don’t think this is particularly healthy and it felt that me praying for people to avoid death (i.e. be healed from terminal illness) was just burying my head in the sand about the fact that everyone dies. Sometimes I’m not sure it’s the most loving thing to do anyway; there are people who are in huge amounts of pain, or who’s age has made them weary of the being in the world, or who aren’t really here mentally any more anyway, for whom death can be a release. Sometimes I think our prayers for healing are more about our desire to keep people here, and our unwillingness to deal with their loss, rather than their best interests.

This is particularly true in the case of people who are Christians. Why would I pray that they remain in this world of pain and sadness and brokenness? I believe that they have the assurance that when they die they go Home; to a place where there is no more pain or tears, to a place where they are able to be fully the person they were created to be, where they will see face to face Love in all His Glory and wonder. Why would I want to stop them going there? A friend of mine said recently that ‘Death is a gift in this broken world’. That’s not to say that those who are not Christians won’t also go to that place, but for me there is not the same guarantee that faith provides.

That’s the pious reason for not praying for healing. I think there is another reason at work too: if I don’t pray it, I can’t be disappointed when it hasn’t been answered. Perhaps that lies more at the heart of things than I’d care to admit. Because essentially I am saying that this prayer, this request is too big for God. After all, a terminal diagnosis is the medical profession saying there is nothing that can be done about it. Prayer in this circumstance is asking for nothing less than a miracle.

Perhaps too I don’t want the uncertainty. So much of our lives are uncertain, but with a terminal diagnosis, even though there are many unknowns about that, the end result is known. We all know what the patient is heading towards. If they were healed, you’d just be put into a situation when you’d be wondering how long until it returns, or until something else kills you. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t?

All the above feels like a confession, and worse, it feels like a betrayal of those who are terminally ill. Why would I not help them if I could? That question is hard enough when it’s friends’ families affected, but right now it is more pertinent than ever as it is affecting those I care most deeply about. I yearn that they would be healed, so we have longer with them and so loved ones are spared the pain of loss. I am deeply grateful for the prayers of those who are able to pray in this way, I’m just not among them. Maybe it betrays a lack of faith in me, but maybe it is fine, and what I need to do at the moment to process what is going on. I do know that for all those who are currently facing terminal illnesses, I believe God is with you, closer than you can imagine, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.

Sent, not Leaving

It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure. Ernie Harwell


Tomorrow I will be driving north away from London, up to Durham where I am going to start training for ordination (to be a vicar). I finished at my previous job as an archaeological consultant at the end of July, so I have had a good amount of time to tie up loose admin ends in London, and spend time with friends before I move hours away.

I’m not very good at goodbyes. I never quite know how to act, but I do know they are important. They are strange though. I am certain I will keep in contact with the most important people in my life, and I am old enough now to know that my most solid friendships can survive months, and even years, of not seeing each other in person. So why is there still sadness in the goodbye? I love London, and I will miss it’s vibrancy, busyness and diversity, but it is not that alone. I guess it is the recognition that even if our friendships continue, they will look different. Geography alone will change the dynamics. As I go through the training, which involves academic study but also importantly formation and refinement of my character, I will change. Of course my friends left in London (and elsewhere) will also be changing as they respond to events and circumstances in their lives. No longer will a be a direct observer to those life events in the same way I have been. I am now engaged too, and as I prepare to be married to a fiancé based in Newcastle next year, my identity and priorities will change in response to this too.

All in all, it’s quite a big deal!

One thing that has made it easier so far is that my church, All Hallows Bow (AHB), is adamant that I am not leaving, but I am being sent. This isn’t them living in denial but rather a liberating attitude which says that though I may be living somewhere different, I am still family. I will continue to have their support, prayers and love. Being ‘sent’ means that they are releasing me into the ministry they, as well as I, believe God is calling me into. It means I am commissioned, affirmed and encouraged in that choice. It means it is not my individual choice to go, but the decision of the whole church congregation.

They (and the leadership in particular) could have chosen to try to hold onto me to grow the ‘tribe’ of the church congregation. Then either they/I would have reached the point of choosing to ignore God’s call on my life, or I would have had to leave. Fortunately they did not do that. They have a bigger picture of God’s kingdom than their own church congregation.

There are no words to really express the importance of AHB in my life. Being part of the motley crew that is the church family there has brought me into contact with people, ideas and situations I never anticipated coming across. It has given me confidence to be more truly myself, and helped me discover what that looks like, warts and vulnerabilities and all. AHB has shown me a faith full of colour and joy, and re-acquainted me with the God who takes great delight in blowing apart the boxes we try to construct for Him, and has grace upon grace for everyone around, and for me as well. When I arrived I had somewhat reluctantly resigned myself to the thought that I would probably be called to ordination at some point. My time at AHB has made me want to be ordained.

Within the AHB family is a group who deserve a particular mention, because they have a special place in my heart. They are the Eden Bow team, which I have had the privilege over the last few years of being a part. We have eaten many meals together, spent many hours serving the young people of our community through a dazzling array of activities, laughed and had our hearts broken together. They have been, and continue to be, a huge inspiration to me as they selflessly and faithfully obey God’s call to be examples of His love, mercy and grace to the community of the Lincoln Estate. They are ordinary people, with fears and frailties like everyone, but with an uncommon obedience and servant-heartedness. They too are cheering me on my way, sad to see me go, but excited to see where God takes me.

‘Leaving’ suggests turning your back on a place, putting down the things associated with that time and moving on. I am fortunate to have been ‘sent’. I can go, sent with love and encouragement, and the memories and friendships of my time in Bow. These things are part of me, and can travel with me as I step into this next phase of life. The goodbyes remain bittersweet, but are made that much easier by being ‘sent’.