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A VIEW FROM THE MANSE
'But what are we going to do about him?' - Morcombe and Wise
It is a strange time to be writing an article for the church magazine; having just said I am leaving. I likened our call to go with God's call to Abram: 'The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."' (Genesis 12:1). Like Abram we have been called; unlike Abram we know where we are heading. I have been called by Norton Baptist Church to be their pastor, and so we will be heading back to the North-East, to Stockton-on-Tees. It is an exciting opportunity which we are looking forward to; but of course change is always scary. Within it all we look forward to going where God is leading us, and the possibilities to participate in what has been planned for us. So what happens now?
Well the first thing to say is that we are not going anywhere yet. We have a number of practicalities to resolve before deciding a start date at Norton, not least of which is finding a house to buy. So where does that leave us all in the interim; am I just marking time, and like Eric Morecombe getting in the way? Hopefully not. Over the next few months there are a number of things I can do to assist the church make preparations for the next phase of ministry: practically and spiritually. Over the past year we have been doing a lot of thinking about what God is doing in the church, and how he wants us to move forward. My departure has very little impact on any of that, and there are a number of things I hope to achieve in the implementation of some of those plans.
The Heart of England Baptist Association (HEBA) will be available to offer support and advice as the church thinks about whether to call a new minister, and what sort of minister to call to enable you to fulfil what God is calling you to be as a community of Christian disciples. I am hoping that Alison Mackay, our Regional Minister, will be able to attend the next deacon's and church meetings to begin that conversation about the future of the church.
At the end of the day, the future of the church, as always rests in the hands of God, who promises: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). As our paths diverge it is helpful to remember that we can all still follow Jesus:
Whether we are called to go or stay, we are called to follow and serve Jesus. So as we journey together now, and as our journeys take us apart, 'let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith'. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
'Peter turned and saw that the desciple whom Jesus loved was following...When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."' (John 21:20-21)
Still your friend and pastor,
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