John talks of his weeks in the pulpit.
Alison has suggested that I might like to write something for the Magazine following my preaching time at our Church. I am happy to do so.
Many years ago, when I retired, we worshipped in a Church in the City where Diane and I had met but, in the fullness of time, we decided to worship nearer home. We had heard many good things about the ministry of Joe Kavanagh, so the rest is history. We have greatly appreciated Joe’s preaching and his conduct of worship and we look forward to his return to the pulpit at the conclusion of his Study Leave.
I remember Joe emailing me to invite me to help with pulpit cover during his time away and I was both surprised and delighted. As you know I have been retired for over 15 years and have done very little preaching during these years—possibly no more than three or four times annually assisting friends. So when Joe and I decided that I could cover for nine Sundays I wondered how it would go.
As I write this I have one Sunday left (26th August) and I can say that the experience of conducting worship has been a great privilege and delight.
Preparing sermons has been very good for the “little grey cells” and I have found huge satisfaction in returning to commentaries and bible translations as I have sought to bring to you sermons speaking to us from the living Word of the living God.
For this “old” man Sunday worship has been an exciting and stimulating time and I am most grateful for our Minister for entrusting his pulpit to me. I record my thanks to Joe. I must also record my thanks to all of you who have worshipped with me during the summer months. The attendances each Sunday (and even when it rained) have been wonderful and your kindness expressed to me as you leave Church have been hugely appreciated and even touching. Meeting with you at the door has been a very special experience for me and how grateful I am to have got to know you in ways that would not have been possible, had I not been conducting worship.
Even in these short encounters, some of you have shared personal feelings and, in these moments, I have realised how vital our caring for one another is. I have learned of some of your joys and your sorrows and how God’s word speaks to us personally in each of our situations—how true these words from Deuteronomy shared with you on the 14th August are “The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are His everlasting arms” - and how thankful we all are to be known by and loved by such a God.
We have also had moments of fun during worship and that is good as our God is a God who wants us to enjoy worshipping Him and sharing fellowship together. I recall some rather flippant comments about my age and especially the member who thought I was in my eighties! If I had been retired for over 15 years - I would like to think that if I reach my mid eighties I am as good as I feel now! Let us not forget the Sundays when we were all treated to tea/coffee and goodies on the two School Uniform Appeal days. These were most special as it gave us opportunities for fellowship which is not always possible on normal Sundays.
Personally, I thought this was a wonderful idea and maybe this can be taken up again to allow us time to chat informally before worship.
I know this would involve work for some but, as I have said often, there are many ways our congregation shares love and care towards others, both within the congregation, and within the community, so maybe a new group of people could think about this as a way of service. In one of my sermons I said “the reward for work well done in Christian service is more work to do” so perhaps this suggestion will be taken up at some future date.
Because of this summer I feel I now know so many more people and, although sitting upstairs, I can now look down at familiar faces and appreciate reciprocal smiles.
One final thought - as you know I am a minister who enjoys eye contact and I have appreciated the lively attentive faces each Sunday. I have commented on this to some of you after worship. These facial expressions have made me feel your enthusiasm and your encouragement. Thank you all for being so kind to me.
As Joe returns, let us go forth rejoicing in God’s forgiveness and His love and empowered by His Spirit share with one another and with our community the unsearchable riches of God’s grace in ways that transforms lives and advances His Kingdom of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians chapter 5 verse 22). Let us all remember my “mantra” this summer “to BE His witnesses and to DO a work for Him” and allow this to become flesh and blood in each one of us.
With my thanks to Joe and to you all.