Go to a land that I will show you
Assistant Rector's House, July 2002
It seems rather over dramatic to compare myself to Abraham (and I am certainly not anywhere near his age - let us not carry this analogy too far!). However I am very sure that unless God had done some pretty clear ‘showing’, I would not now be contemplating the prospect of moving 200 miles north in a few months time.
To fill in for those who have not heard our news, Jim and I are soon to move to Northumberland. We will leave St Peter’s in the middle of September, and I will be licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Bamburgh and Ellingham on 21st October. These are both very small villages and so there is another part to the job too. I also have the responsibility of developing the church’s Ministry to Visitors in north Northumberland - an area full of historic churches and castles and islands and ancient battle sites - and of course a place of many saints. Bamburgh is the place where St Aidan brought Christianity to Northumbria - indeed as Andrew said in church a couple of weeks ago, St Aidan is the real Apostle to the English - weep your heart out St Augustine!
There is a board in St Aidan’s church listing the priests who have served in the present church from 1121 until the present, but above this roll-call are the words ‘This church was founded by St Aidan in 635 AD’. It is a pretty daunting thought to be following in such holy footsteps, and an enormously unexpected privilege.
The ‘unexpectedness’ of all this is total, and a great shock to the system! Many of you know that for a while I have felt that it is time to move on - but I had only seriously been thinking about urban and suburban ministry until one day I was asked ‘Eileen, would you consider applying for…?’ After some very serious reflection and prayer, and much consultation with the family, the prospect of Bamburgh acquired a sense of rightness, which it was important to pursue.
When I came to St Peter’s ten years ago, that was to a ministry and place which was previously unknown. We had never lived in the middle of a city; I had no experience and little knowledge of the mission of a City Centre Church. That was a real step of faith and trust, and one which I am inexpressibly glad to have taken. I (we) love St Peter’s and its people, and have benefited in innumerable ways from our time here.
So ‘different’ was the prospect of coming to Nottingham, that we assured ourselves we would stay for only five years, and then return to the security of the sort of churches and places we knew, probably in Yorkshire. I could not have dreamt then of the stimulation and enjoyment and challenges, to be received in St Peter’s and in the Deanery, which have persuaded us to stay here for so much longer than we predicted.
Second-guessing what God wants is not a very profitable pastime. He doesn’t say ‘go to the place I shall show you’ just once; he keeps saying it. We now set out to a place which is in deepest contrast to both Yorkshire suburbia and Nottingham City centre. We have never lived in deepest rural countryside; the place, the lifestyle and the kind of ministry will be startlingly different to anything we have known. God said to Abraham ‘do not be afraid’, and he goes on saying it - to the prophets, and to all his people down the ages. He asks us to do unexpected, sometimes quite crazy things. Security is not an option. All we can do is set out in trust that ‘all will be well’. This is what Jim and I are doing now. We would value your prayers in these coming complicated months of sorting things out, and for the new life which lies ahead of us.
(Unlike Abraham we will not be living in a tent in the desert, but in a large and beautifully located Vicarage overlooking the castle, the sea, the Farne islands, Holy Island, the church and the hills beyond! That is something we very much look forward to).
With thanks for all your love and prayers thus far.