This summer will mark the end of a 12-year period working with you here, as the Superintendent Minister for the Callington & Gunnislake Circuit. It also marks the conclusion of my 22 years, serving as a full-time minister and a total of over forty years in full-time work. The current challenge is to sort out and pack what Val & I would like to take with us to the Cotswolds and to deal with the remainder in ways to benefit others as much as possible. Yet those who know me well could tell you that I do tend to hoard things with the sincere belief that particular items might come in handy one day! That approach may have some virtues of course ... but is definitely not ideal when it comes to packing up and preparing to move home!
Putting down strong roots in a local community is a highly commendable aim for any person yet may be less so if our clutter and 'baggage' constantly grow. There is a pertinent spiritual truth in all this, of course. The materialistic society in which we live is constantly trying to persuade us that if only we have this hi-tech gadget or buy that clothing item ... then we would be truly happy. Yet we all know deep down, that it is people and not things, that we need to really value, as we go along life's journey. For we entered this World with nothing and leave it in the same way [Job 1: 21]! Although we may live until we reach 100 years old, even such a great age represents a comparatively short earthly journey [James 4: 14]. Our bodies were simply never designed for permanent residence on planet Earth [2 Corinthians 5: 1-5]!
To spend over twenty years living in Cornwall among such lovely people has been a tremendous privilege. Val and I will certainly remember our wonderful Wedding Day in the Circuit. We'll miss the beauty of the Tamar Valley and those scenic views from the Manse towards Caradon Hill. The requirements of heading up the work and dealing with most of the administration for the whole circuit has definitely required some considerable juggling at times! Yet I am grateful for that over the years, people have been so understanding and appreciated that I've had important District roles to perform ... in addition to the time spent as Local Preachers Tutor; regularly visiting local schools, care homes, hospitals; chairing meetings; assisting with children's events; writing articles; leading Bible Study groups and so on. Involvement with the local community has let to chaplaincy roles [eg. with Tamar Valley Male Voice Choir]; leading Prayers at Town Council meetings; participating in carnivals and parades and taking speaking engagements at the request of of local community organisations. There have been really happy occasions to celebrate but some times of immense sadness when words of comfort have been hard to find.
'You must be counting the days till you finish', is a comment that has come my way more than once recently. I understand what people mean of course. Yet I can honestly say that in my working life, I've never been one to 'clock-watch', though I'd accept that I've been fortunate to have been able to enjoy the majority of what I've been privileged to do. The problem of having a 'counting the days' mind-set, as a Christian, is that the potential benefits and blessings of the present tend to be overlooked because the focus is always on reaching a perceived 'good time' in the future. Yet the Scriptures repeatedly stress the need to value the present and not take the future for granted [Psalm 39: 4-5; 2 Corinthians 6: 2].
During my years as a Methodist Minister, I've been privileged to spend time with hundreds of families during some of the most emotional occasions in their lives, sharing in their joys and sadnesses, while trying to offer positive words of encouragement wherever possible. I also count it a huge privilege to have worked alongside some truly inspirational Christian people whose kindnesses plus a willingness to volunteer and to 'go the extra mile', have helped to create the strong sense of fellowship which exists across our compact Circuit today. Since I came to Callington in 2007, the opportunities to work ecumenically have increased enormously and my prayer is that such initiatives will continue in the years ahead, as Reverend David heads up the work from September.
As I will be off to do some more sorting and packing here in the Manse, I wonder if you might be inspired to see if there's any accumulated clutter that is getting in the way of having a closer walk with God? There's no doubt in my mind that, with the Lord's Strength, Forgiveness and Guidance, all unwanted 'baggage' can be removed and our life proceed with a lighter step and a better sense of priorities. I'll end with some Sankey hymn words as my parting prayer:
God be with you till we meet again! When life's perils thick confound you;
Put His loving arms around you; God be with you till we meet again!
God Bless and Farewell - Your Minister and Friend - Martyn