Castle Hill Community Church, where I was in ministry for nearly 12 years, has just announced the appointment of Adrian Jackson as their new Senior Pastor. The outcome of that decision has been very much on my mind and in my prayers – you can’t spend that long pouring your heart and soul into a place without being deeply invested in what happens after you’ve gone. I am absolutely delighted they have gone for Adrian. If I had had any influence over this appointment – and I didn’t – this is exactly what I would have advocated. Adrian is a different kind of leader to me – different in precisely the ways that will be important for Castle Hill to move forward. He’ll be able to achieve things that I never could, and I am quietly confident that his leadership will be a crucial factor in that church emerging into a wonderful new era. The picture is of Adrian and me at his graduation earlier this year, fooling around in our ‘Batman capes’. I’m really looking forward to being present at his commissioning on the 3rd of February next year.
‘Mentoring Matters’ is now an e-book. It’s been available in Kindle edition from Amazon for some time, but now Koorong have it as a download. The book has been selling steadily for the past three years – nothing spectacular, just ticking away. I hope this gives the old girl a new lease of life. A few weeks ago I met some church leaders for the first time in a little coffee shop in Market Harborough in Leicestershire to discuss how I might be able to help them build strength and resilience in their staff team. To my surprise they were well aware of my book and said they had been using it for the last couple of years as their standard text in their leadership development courses because it was the best resource they had found. As you might imagine, I was a little dumbfounded at that. On reflection, I feel humbled and grateful that such a thing could happen.
Our eldest son, Ryan, is to be married to Miriam Harwood on the 18th of December. Heather and I are so happy about this. All the wedding plans seem to be in hand. I don’t have any responsibilities beyond paying certain bills – oh, and being appropriately interested when asked to comment on various aspects of the day, especially the attire of the mother of the groom. It takes me back thirty-three years to the time Heather and I were married. So much excitement, anticipation, a few nerves but mostly tremendous confidence that everything was going to turn out brilliantly. And why not be confident? Why not be over the moon with joy? There are those who feel it necessary at times like this to speak a cautionary word about the difficulties and challenges ahead to bring things back into perspective. No doubt that’s all true, but there will be time for that later. Like that occasion at Cana we read about in John’s gospel, this is a wedding at which Christ’s presence and power brings a resounding affirmation of the festivities. Let’s party!
I recently visited Ffald y Brenin, a retreat centre and house of prayer in western Wales that has become known worldwide through Roy Godwin’s book, ‘Grace Outpouring’. Roy and his wife along with several volunteers run this small, beautiful centre following a daily rhythm of prayer and worship built on the foundations of the ancient Celtic saints intertwined with simple songs from more recent times. They don’t do anything special, but God has done some amazing work in people’s lives in terms of healing, revelation, repentance and renewal. I went with an open heart and mind, not knowing what to expect but anticipating that God would meet me there in some fashion. I did not experience anything stunningly miraculous but it was nevertheless a deep and precious experience. Over the years I’ve had several episodes of God showing up in powerful ways. But these days his close presence with me is mediated more through the small, ordinary things of life than in visions, shaking, prophetic words or miraculous answers to prayer. To others, perhaps it seems that I’ve ‘lost my charismatic edge’. But from my perspective, I have never been so settled in God, so sure of his grace, so confident in his care, provision and guidance for me, so aware of the power of the Holy Spirit enabling me to speak and serve others in the normal flow of my ministry. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still up for the fireworks if that’s what God has in mind! But I’m really not hanging out for all that like I used to. Maybe it’s part of getting old that I’m more enamoured of consistency and beauty than excitement and spectacle in spiritual things.
Snap Printing at Norwest have produced some new business cards for me as I try to establish my new enterprise brand, ‘Anamcara Consulting’. Honestly, this feels pretty strange promoting myself in this way. I realise it’s what you have to do when you’re going freelance as I am, but after 30 years of being a local church minister and being gloriously insulated from the world of commerce, it’s a bit of a jolt. I bumped into some former ministry colleagues in a coffee shop yesterday. They were having a meeting about a Carols event and asked what I was doing these days. When they learned I was not leading a church the reaction was surprised/disappointed/puzzled/negative. The immediate assumption was that I am ‘no longer in ministry’. It takes a while to explain that I am, indeed, still in ministry, just not the local church leadership kind of ministry. It was an awkward moment, and threw me back on my conviction that I am pursuing God’s call as best as I can, without fully knowing what this is going to look like even a year or two from now.
Just finished reading an advance copy of Sheridan Voysey’s forthcoming book, Resurrection Year. Wow, what an amazing book. I am so impressed. He documents the extremely painful journey he and his wife Merryn have been through dealing with infertility. This is personal spiritual memoir mixed with robust pastoral theology. He does not evade the awkward issues for a moment and, while there are no pat answers and no happy ending where everything works out, nevertheless a beautiful hopefulness rises up out of the intense disappointment and pain. Just an excellent read for anyone wrestling with suffering and unanswered prayer of any kind. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Resurrection Year will be released 28 May, 2013.
As Christmas approaches I’m thinking about the astounding vulnerability of the newborn Christ. What a way for the all-powerful God to enter His creation! In the incarnation I am squarely confronted about my tendency to stride into a new context with power, reputation, self-protection, clever plans and back-up resources. Forgive me if I sound like I’m starting to preach – these are simply matters pertinent to my current personal circumstances. I pray the Lord will be near you through Advent and speak to your heart about how and where He is leading you and working within you.
Grace and peace,