How quickly ten years passes. I was inducted as Rector on July 2nd, 2001, an evening as hot as today when I bade farewell. Then I was a professed member of the Society of St. Francis and was surrounded by my Brothers: today there were no First Order members but two hundred friends of all ages. We celebrated Harvest and gave thanks for all that we have been given that has made us into the people we are. And I gave thanks for all that this parish has given me over these years.
It is hard to say goodbye – parting, as I said in my sermon, is such sweet sorrow. How strangely right it was to say goodbye in this context when we were giving thanks, realising the fullness of life that had been shared with so many of those present. Times of deep sorrow and times of great joy all summed up by celebrating our eucharist. And, strangely, what touched me most was the children whose love and acceptance in our varied contacts through school, the uniformed organisations and the church left me with a deep sense of gratefulness for the trust they had placed in me, a trust I hope I have honored.
This evening I am left with a feeling that what I have been given is far more than what I have offered and I wonder how I can, now, repay that. Of course, it’s too late. We shall be moving on as the parish will. We will learn to let go but, right now, the ties that bind me to them feel very strong. Just how does one say goodbye to all those people who have opened their hearts to me? How do I say goodbye to those people who now carry the responsibility for the parish? Of course, Chris and I will be here for some days yet and I shall be available should they need me. But I am left with a deep feeling of – sorrow – that I have to say goodbye. Maybe I could have stayed some years longer, seen the parish through their 150th celebrations – never left! But, on reflection, I would rather go when the going is good, there is energy and enthusiasm around and when I haven’t passed my ‘Sell by’ date! Yet there is still that nagging feeling that I could have done more: more to make this parting less painful. Such, I suppose, is the nature of grief. And it’s grief I think I feel this evening as I write this. Grief that follows letting go and remembering all that has been. So I grasp those words of Dag Hammerskold: ‘For all that has been, thanks! For all that will be, yes!’