February 2014

A retiring moment…

I have the privilege to minister to two congregations. Firstly, (no surprise here!) at Christ Church United Reformed Church in Rayleigh, and I’m into my 15th year in ministry here.

My second congregation is in Westcliff and is the Bridgwater Drive Church. Bridgwater is not far down the A127, but if you know the A127 it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to almost 2 hours, when stuck after an accident in rush hour traffic! Eastward Road is normally a bit slower but more reliable, especially around rush hour.

The main difference in the area is that Bridgwater Drive is part of Southend, whereas Rayleigh is definitely not! The main difference between the churches is that Christ Church is a URC whereas Bridgwater is a ‘local ecumenical project’, ie it is a combination of (in this case) two different denominations – Anglican and URC. In summer it will be 3 years since I started at Bridgwater and it has been interesting to minister in a congregation that is a mixture of two different traditions. As always when there is a combination of different strands there has to be compromise. Neither tradition gets it’s way all the time. There is a creative tension that at its best is really positive in worship, ministry and mission. At other times the combining has meant an unhelpful clash. Especially as the congregation relates to its parent bodies there is frequently duplication and needing to do things twice over.

For me personally one of the advantages has been working with an Anglican colleague, Rob Cadman. He is in a similar situation as me; he has a larger congregation, St. Peter’s near the hospital, and needs to also minister to the smaller Bridgwater. He does have the advantage in living in the area. Overall, I think we have been a good team. However Rob turns 65 in April and after over 35 years of ministry is set to retire. It will be strange not having him to talk to and work with. I will have to be a solo act at least until a replacement is found, and the Anglicans are reorganising ministry and parish boundaries, so it might be some time.

I guess it highlights again for me that the only constant is change. Life settles down for a period of time, and we can be fooled into thinking that the situation we find ourselves in is the norm. If you are settled, know that change is on the horizon. It also highlights again for me that we need a solid rock to base our lives on, even in the changes that appear with ever more regularity. Even though Rob moves on, even though life circumstances change, even though the norm isn’t, Christ remains the bedrock of our life and faith. On him we trust.


February 2014