According to my file this is actually my 100 th minister’s letter for Contact and sadly my last. We arrived in Rowlands Gill in August 2005, not knowing why God had sent us so far North, or what the future would bring. It was a step of faith and costly to us moving so far away from family and friends. As I look back now over those last 15 years I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for the joy of ministry in the South West Tyneside Circuit and so greatly appreciate being able to journey with you during these precious years. Indeed we have made so many friends here and been loved by you so much - this now feels like home, which makes the leaving all the more painful.
I know from many of the conversations I have had with people outside of the church, they don’t understand why as ministers we have to move; a number have said ‘surely it is better to be settled, secure, and where people need you’. I understand where they are coming from, however we know that is precisely the time to be moving on. Our ministers need to be able to speak prophetically and you can’t do that so well when you are settled, we need our leaders to be reliant on God not placing their security in themselves; we need also to recognise that the church is the whole people of God and not one person. As Paul speaks of the church so he talks of the partnership that exists between himself and the congregation. The church is not the minister and by moving on both you and I are reminded of that fact. The itinerant ministry also recognises that we are part of a wider church, the body of Christ that is right across the world and that we belong to each other and indeed need one another.
I am so thankful for the joy of being your minister. It is an immense privilege to have been able to walk alongside you and your families in all their joys and celebrations, the baptisms, dedications and weddings, the birthday parties and anniversaries and even more a privilege to be there in the times of loss and grief and to share with you the love and grace of God.
I know I haven’t always got it right, and for those times when I have caused hurt I ask for your forgiveness. I am thankful as well for the way you trusted me in leading the church in Chopwell and in Rowlands Gill. Sometimes taking risks, stepping out in faith to share the good news, in my time here we have been to Romania, South Africa and even Alnwick! We have spent holy days on Lindisfarne and study days at Shepherds Dene, we have run Alpha courses and been touched by God in worship and prayer. We have seen kids grow up and come to a wonderful faith and sent out many into their own ministry and vocations, we have climbed many mountains together and each step has been an honour. We have come together as one church and when we are finally able to have a farewell service it will be in a redeveloped church building. We have cried together, laughed together and worked together all in the cradle of God’s care.
I am saddened that with covid-19 I am not able to say a personal farewell at this time, but when this is over we will have the opportunity to share bread and wine together, to hug one another and know that we are one in Christ, today, tomorrow and forever. As Paul says it better than me, so I leave you with his words of truth and grace:
‘ I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of
you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began
a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ
Jesus.’ PHILIPPIANS 1.3-6
On behalf of us Bradleys, and with God’s blessing we thank you for all your friendship, love and care.