Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Breaking up is hard to do

Neil Sedaka’s famous song with that title (recorded by him in two different versions, 1962 and 1975 if I am correct) was about the end of a relationship – a love affair.

And I suppose that is how I feel about the fact that I have just in the last few days announced to the congregation that I am to be leaving St Cuthbert’s at the end of March. I am taking on the role of one of the Interim Minister team in the Church of Scotland.

I suppose that one result of this is that I may need to change the title of this blog! No more ‘Cuthbert in Edinburgh’!

But whatever adjustments that will need to be made, the biggest thing at the moment is that I have such a deep sense of loss at the prospect of leaving St Cuthbert’s. I love St Cuthbert’s, I love the people and I have loved my (approaching) 8 years there. In fact in some ways it does feel like the end of a love affair, certainly on my part.

One perceptive long-time friend and colleague in ministry, on learning of my news, perceptively wrote ‘what a wrench for you!  I really felt that St. C’s has been a real zenith in your career, kinda what you were born for’.

Indeed. That is how it feels.

But on we must go... me and them.

And if the road to a future of service to God, for me and St C’s, and the road to the future mission that awaits me and St C’s, and the road to new opportunities in the Spirit for me and St C’s lies at first through a time of pain and loss, then that pattern is not a strange one for Christianity. Far from it!

I announced my departure at the Church service on Sunday morning. After I did so I was somewhat distracted and desolate... and then I heard the words of the Old Testament reading being read and suddenly I was very alert to them ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;   I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. ... Do not fear, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 43).

I was further struck by one of the hymns we sang (I had not chosen Sunday’s praise). It was Carl P Daw’s ‘Mark how the Lamb’. The final part of the second verse reads:

So we, by water and the Spirit 
baptized into Christ’s ministry, 
are often led to paths of service 
through mazes of adversity.

Oh, how true, and how relevant that felt for me on Sunday morning.

Breaking up is hard to do.