Karen and I couldn’t leave the pastorate without saying a final farewell to you all. It has been a significant 11 years in all of our lives. Especially so in our lives as a family (when we came Emily had just finished her MA at St Andrews University, James just about to start his BA in Newcastle), now we are grandparents. Our second grandchild Tabitha, was born less than a week ago ( as I write this) and one of the compelling factors in my decision to retire from full time church ministry has been the difficulties in playing an active role in their lives – they are available at weekends, I am not.
It has also been a significant period in the life of the church nationally and locally. The experience here at Bramhall and Cheadle Hulme has precisely mirrored the experience of the national United Reformed Church and similar churches (Baptist, Methodist, most Anglican churches etc). I would only say as to your future that the picture is now clear, those churches who see their future based on their past are not doing well, those that are offering worship based around people’s lives – where they are now, not where society was 50 years ago, are making progress. Enough of that.
I am not by outlook someone who wants to look back. I never have been. I still see the world as a grand and brilliant (and for us largely unexplored) place offering opportunity at every step. Likewise I don’t see society as a Godless place where no – one has room or time for God. Without question, my experience has been that many folk own a deep spirituality, but as Moderator Richard Church said at my induction here in 2008, people have fallen out of love with the church, not with God. It is, as it always has been for those churches rooted in Congregationalism, the job of the church to show how God can be part of our everyday lives.
Karen and I will for most folk be leaving your lives. Karen wishes to continue working in Manchester for a period whereas I shall; be a granddad, help my best friend Jim run a cycling charity, walk and cycle from our home in the Galloway and… continue discussion with the URC about another possible part time role, but it will not be here.
So change is inevitable for us all, it is not an enemy, it is not something to be feared. It is neither good nor bad, but it is inevitable.
We wish to say a huge thank you to everyone for supporting us and forgiving us for our lapses. We wish you all the best for the future.
Take Care, Alan and Karen