Farewell from Michael

From the Rector (for the last time)

Many of you will know that I retire on Sunday 30th November, Advent Sunday, after just over 42 years in the ministry. My last service will be on that day at 10.30am in Christ Church, Annscroft. I would be really pleased if you would like to join me then.

Carol and I have been very happy in this Benefice. We have enjoyed 13 ½ years of living and working for the Gospel among you and we are very grateful for the friendships and relationships we have made. You have been very kind and gracious.

As I look back over my ministry as a priest I first of all think, where has the time gone? I've certainly had my ups and downs, but I have so enjoyed and found fulfilment in what I have done, mainly because I've been sure that I was doing what God wanted me to do.

I also wonder what I've achieved. At the end of the day this is a question I can't answer because so much of the work cannot be quantified. Also the work of any particular priest is a contribution to a process which often takes many years, and in which others are involved in what God is doing. St. Paul noted this in his first letter to the Corinthians where he mentions a fellow minister: " I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." St. Paul also make the point that the work of a Christian leader will ultimately be judged by God. St Paul says of his work in leading the mission and establishing the congregation in Corinth: " I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.... if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

But I have to say the one thing I have found the most fulfilling, in addition to preaching the Gospel and celebrating the Eucharist, has been helping people to engage seriously with God and begin or renew their relationship with Him. There is a verse in Psalm 122 which says: " I was glad when they said to me 'Let us go to the house of the Lord'." Here is King David expressing delight with those who wanted to honour God and take Him seriously in their lives.

The work of a priest who is also the Vicar or Rector of a Benefice is amazingly varied. There are Sunday services, caring for people through funerals, weddings and baptisms, working with children and young people, being a school governor, resourcing and encouraging the ministry of others, discerning and encouraging some into ordained and other authorised ministry, managing and organising the life and ministry of the churches and with others "keeping the show on the road", overseeing the maintenance and running of the church-buildings and churchyards.  Along with that there has to be involvement in the church outside the Benefice because we are part of the wider family of the Church of England through Deanery and Diocese. I have had the privilege of serving as Rural Dean of Pontesbury for 5 years and as Assistant Archdeacon for one alongside my Benefice responsibilities. I have also had the privilege of serving as a Pastoral Tutor to some training for ordination through West of England Ministerial Training Course.

I have truly enjoyed every aspect of this work despite the frustrations and difficulties which arise. And in the midst of it all has been the crux (Latin=cross)-the main thing. And that is the Cross and all that it means in terms of forgiveness and the offer of a new life with God that will last forever. And throughout the ministry which God has given me it has been the greatest delight to be with people as they have stepped into that new life through a definite acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Saviour and through prayer to be filled with His Holy Spirit.

Carol and I will remember our time with you all with great affection and perhaps you might notice us waving frantically at you as we drive through the Benefice to get to Shrewsbury from Churchstoke.

God bless you all

Michael Whittock