The Road Ahead

I finish as Vicar of St. John's Roslyn this Thursday, so today was my last Sunday. I was awake at 4:30 am, so had no bother being on time for the 8:00 am Eucharist. I wasn't very pleased with the way my sermon went at the early service: it seemed more like something for starting the next chapter rather than finishing this one; so between the services I swapped it for something else. Just before 10 I gathered with the choir for the last time and said my vestry prayer, then, also for the last time walked down the aisle as Vicar of St. John's. Or as Vicar of anywhere as a matter of fact. It's been 11 quick watch us as we zip past so darned fast you won't see us unless you're very sharp years here in Roslyn. But it's been 28 years since I first walked down an aisle as the Vicar of somewhere else. Half my life, more or less.

Today we had two visitors, so I knew who the other 162 people were although that didn't stop me having a couple of mental blocks regarding names when they knelt at the altar rail . For the last time I looked down at those sacred spaces made by two upstretched palms. Kneeling at the rail were people whose weddings I presided at and others beside whom I have walked in bereavement and illness. There were people who have told me things they have told no-one else alive. I knelt to bless children I have baptised. There were many of all ages whom I have watched grow - physically, intellectually, spiritually - in spectacular ways. There were people I admire. 164 of them.

At the end of the service I sat with Clemency while the choir sang to us, and then we followed the parish banner from out from our church. There was morning tea, then speeches and a lunch. People spoke with great eloquence and sincerity while Clemency and I sat and looked back at a great sea of smiling, encouraging, but pensive faces. The parish gave me a spectacular and astonishingly carved kauri crozier and a simple silver episcopal ring. We were given a stunning work from our parishioner, the renowned printmaker Audrey Bascand and a graceful and strong Oamaru stone carving by Craig McLanachan. Alan Firth wrote me a poem in the style of JRR Tolkien in which he compared me to Gandalf. I told Clemency that red beads weren't a great idea today as they brought out the colour of her eyes. I was glad I wasn't wearing any.

Then, after the hugs and kisses and handshakes, we carried our gifts and our cards and a little book in which people had written kind things back into this gracious house, which has sheltered us for the last 11 years; and the tiredness swept over me and washed me away. The first step on the road ahead means leaving the road behind. The way ahead is as yet unknown but its not daunting. As time goes on, my sense of what may lie ahead keeps on growing: it all promises to be quite exciting. I have no doubt at all that I am going where I am supposed to be, but today was a time to savour the past, and gratefully and sadly acknowledge what we are having to forsake in order to take the path that winds ever on and on.


Anonymous said…
Well, I'm glad you swapped stories between services - I loved the story you told at the 10 am service - and was interested in the use you made of it. I wondered what the people on either side of me were hearing - I am certain we all heard something different in the tale.
Afterwards, hearing your reaction to the crozier you have ended up with - not the simple wooden crook you thought you wanted and needed - but an ornate carved artwork, heavily freighted with symbols. But I think the story teller has been given his reward - your job is to tell stories - your story, as you said - but also telling it in such a way that we can also hear it and recognise it as our story too - and then go and tell it to other people, with that same generosity of spirit, honesty, and conviction of its truth and importance. You are a great one for using pictures as visual props for your stories - but as bishop in this diocese, you are going to find yourself having to tell stories in places where no projector is available. Now you have your story teller's crook - replete with imagery linking it to so many stories - Biblical and autobiographical. Scallop shell, wind on water, feather of dove, Spirit of God, translucent material, Red Sea. Go forth and [show and] tell! We are going to miss you both dreadfully - but the Bishop's Action Crozier is good to go....Come back and tell us some more stories soon - but we will do our best, as a community, to tell our own in a new way, as we seek to find our path ahead.
Peter Llewellyn said…
Never having been to one of your services nor to St John's Roslyn, I was nevertheless made present by your account in this post. It was just a year ago - 22 February, the last Sunday before Lent, Transfiguration, when I said my farewell as Rector of a much smaller parish with a much smaller congregation in Yarram, Gippsland Victoria - the part of Australia most like Aotearoa NZ. The parish council kindly reduced the services to one that day.

I left not for an episcopal chair but for a new life in a new city, and have been seeking the path ahead ever since. So far it is been winding, joyous and exciting - and still can't see past the next bend. May your road be blessed, filled and fruitful.
daharja said…
Good luck! :-)

There are a lot of we little, pretty much anonymous well-wishers - all behind you, all wishing you the best in your new path!