God of Surprises
How much do you allow God to surprise you? For many it was a surprise on Sunday 5th November when they learnt that I had been appointed to a new post of Pioneer Minister for Alconbury Weald in the Diocese of Ely. I too had been surprised by this whole process. Surprised by beginning to sense my time here was coming to an end and surprised by where that sense and exploration led me. I have never used the label of Pioneer Minister or particularly been an adherer to the label of Fresh Expressions of church. Through prayer, reflection, and exploring where God was now calling me to, I was surprised to realise that I have been Pioneering and Fresh Expressioning in one way or another in churches since I was a teenager. We have also been doing this together in various ways here in the Barrow and Wolds Group of Churches.
I think that surprises are healthy for us, healthy for our minds and spirit because they bring revelation, new experience deepening our thinking and challenging us in our living and our continuing formation as none of us is a finished person. I have just watched ‘Bad Habits, Holy Orders’ a channel 5 programme where 5 young ladies stay in a convent in Swaffham for 4 weeks. There were certainly some surprises for the nuns as well as for the girls! These young women were surprised I think by the whole experience, in the changes that came about in their lives as they let go of the masks. They became happier and more confident young women through the process. The programme is available on catch-up (My5).
The title I have used for this letter is ‘God of Surprises’ which is a book by Gerard W. Hughes. “This book has become for me the bridge on which the God of Surprises and I have met and deepened our relationship with one another. I therefore treasure it and recommend it to anyone who is serious about encountering God for themselves.” (Joyce Huggett). So it might be a good one for your Christmas wish list
I would also like to recommend a book for Advent. ‘The Reason I Jump’ by Naoki Higashida. It is one boy’s voice from the silence of autism. I am finding this to be a book of surprises which deepens thinking and challenges ones attitudes, preconceived ideas and therefore ones formation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who I have walked alongside and worked alongside over the last six years. We have experienced surprises together, we have deepened our thinking, been challenged in our living and continued our formation personally, as churches and as a group of churches.
My last Sunday in the Group of Churches will be January 7th 2018. On that Sunday afternoon from 3-5:30pm we will be having a farewell ‘tea and cake’ drop in at Trinity Rooms Barrow, everyone welcome. This will be followed by a Group Holy Communion service at 6pm in Holy Trinity Church. After that I am on sabbatical for three months before moving on to my new post.
My last Sunday morning services in Prestwold and Wymeswold will be on 17th December and in Walton and Barrow on the 7th of January.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
May you have many more surprises.
Revd R. Paddison (Priest-in-Charge of the Barrow and Wolds Group of churches).