‘Go well! Stay well!’
These are the English translation of parting words I learnt when living in Zimbabwe.
I had no idea, when I arrived in 1997, that Shipley was to be my home for the next 17 years! And that my desire to follow God’s call to be ‘an ordinary circuit minister’ would be fulfilled in Shipley and Bingley and Bradford North Circuits. Every ordinary person, however, is special and unique in God’s eyes, ‘I have called you my name you are mine’ (Isaiah 431) and each of us has a particular God given task to carry out.
Sometimes, it’s only retrospectively that our task becomes clear! As I prepare to leave, I’ve done some looking back hoping that I have been faithful to God’s will.
And the phrase that comes to mind is from John’s Gospel. Jesus says to his followers, ‘I call you servants no longer but friends.’ The time those early disciples had spent with Jesus had changed the nature of their relationship with Him and each other. They’d got to know each other, worked together: become friends.Over the years, folk who were strangers to me have become friends. And I hope for you, people and churches, in the now established Bradford North Circuit, you are beginning to feel less like strangers and more like friends.
Friends love and respect one another. Friendship is a relationship of give and take, of support and challenge, and of straight talking and sympathetic encouragement. It is not always easy – we let each other down and don’t always live up to each other’s expectations. Some of us are easier to get on with than others!
Yet Jesus says we are to love one another as he has loved us. He was saying this to the motley crew of women and men who, after Pentecost, were fired with God’s Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of God’s love, justice and peace to the ends of the earth, beginning where they were.
And Jesus is still saying it to you and me. We are to love one another. It’s quite a tough calling. And there’s more! For we are to love our neighbour as ourselves! This calling, which is for each one of us, is set within the knowledge and experience of God’s overwhelming love for me and you.
I thank God for the friendships that have sustained me during my ministry here and I thank you all for the best wishes, gifts, support and prayers, my family and I have received.
So friends, I trust that I will ‘go well’ and you will ‘stay well’ as, in our different ways, we’ll be faithful to the ‘God we adore, our faithful unchangeable friend’.