Minister's letter July 2017

by Rev Ben Clowes  |  Posted at 03:38am on 29th July 2017

Dear friends

"You have stayed long enough at this mountain" (Deuteronomy 1:6)

After 10 years, 70+ Church Councils across 3 churches, 100+ newsletter articles, 800+ services, 360+ assemblies, hundreds of pastoral visits, numerous funerals, 25 weddings, countless baptisms, 1 spire project, 7 Christmas Tree Festivals, 1 Family Missioner, 1 Lay Pastor at The Welcome and 4 different ordained colleagues it is time for me to move on. It is time for all the farewells, the 'thank you for all your hard work', the 'we're really going to miss you' moments and maybe even a 'thank goodness you're leaving!!'. I did wonder if this was the moment we'd receive the partridge in a pear tree until I remembered we're in the wrong season!

What can I possibly have to say to you all after so much input! Well I think it begins from a conversation I have repeatedly had over the last few weeks which invariably gets round to "so are you excited to be leaving?". The answer is a firm yes and a firm no, all at the same time! I know it's time for us to move on, God has very clearly spoken in similar ways as he spoke to the Israelites in Deuteronomy but we're also immensely sad to be leaving a village we have come to call home. As I was pondering this, I decided to take the time to listen to new Vice President of Conference's address. Jill Baker in her address to Conference at the end of June spoke about life being about rhythm - I picked up a strand of this in my talk at the Civic Service but as I listened on I realised just how much applies to me, to my family, and, I believe, to us as a church.

The Presidential theme for 2017/18 is 'Day by Day: exploring the rhythm of mission and discipleship'. The concept that we need to learn to take each day for all that it brings us and how we, through it, continue our walk with God. The part of Jill's speech which touched me greatly was about the dual concept of laughter and lament - or to put it another way 'smiles and tears'. Laughter is rooted in the church (you only need to look at the example of Abraham and Sarah having Isaac - which translates into English as 'Laughter') but do we laugh enough. Have we as church lost the art of laughter? Jill went on to share of the depth of her own grief, do read the transcript online or watch the video feed if you want to know more, and lead to thinking about Proverbs 14:13 which says 'Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief'. Laugher and grief are linked!

As a church we're in the season of laughter and lament. It is time for us to move on and I do feel the pain that some of you feel. I know so many who I have journeyed with over the last 10 years, people with whom I have shared very deeply. Breaking away from all that is difficult. Many ministers speak of this season for the minister and their family and for the churches/circuit as a bereavement. And yet, it's also the season of laughter. A few folk have already shared with me the funny moments of the last 10 years that they will remember, again moments when we have shared deeply. Laughter and lament are interconnected! Jill piqued my interest when she used the illustration of the reaction of the Fellowship of the Ring after the fall of Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in Lord of the Rings. Jill said "After Gandalf's death in 'The Lord of the Rings' the frightened, grief-stricken Fellowship of the Ring take refuge in the woods of Lothlorien. And there the unearthly beauty of the elves' lament for Gandalf expresses something of the deep sorrow they all feel. Even though the hobbits can't understand the words, the lament is part of the necessary outpouring of their hearts." I know there will be tears from some of our number in the coming weeks - and that is perfectly ok; we do need to lament.

But we also need to move on. As a family we will be physically moving to the other side of the Pennines - and we certainly know it with the tip and charity shop trips we've done in the past few weeks! Sue and

Will will be moving to this side of the Pennines and I know there's a lot of work being done to prepare for their coming but this isn't just about being physically prepared. Are we spiritually prepared too? Things will be different from 1st September - Sue and I are different people but the mission of AEMC remains the same 'Loving God, Loving Others'.

What will I miss? What won't I miss? Well, maybe this isn't the time to answer either of those questions except to say I will and won't miss the laughter and lament, both in equal amounts. I will miss this village which has become part of the Clowes family history but I am looking forward to a new beginning. God has said 'you have stayed long enough at this mountain' and believe he is saying it to us all. Do take Sue and Will to your hearts. Do understand that things will be different. Do move forward with God as things change. After 10 years we have all stayed long enough at this mountain!

On behalf of Catherine, Sam, Joel and myself, thank you for taking us to your heart, for putting up with the many, many mistakes I've made and upsets I've caused. Thank you for going along with some of my hair-brained ideas. Thank you for being you and being part of my development from Probationer to Superintendent. You will remain in my prayers as I move on to the Nidd Valley Circuit and I hope you will pray for us too. Thank you all and may God richly bless AEMC and the wider circuit under Sue's leadership.

Yours in Christ


Yours in Christ

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