After twenty years in the Hull area, we are finally forsaking the east coast to head to the west coast and another port city. I recall that, in 1999, when it was announced that Stella, Sarah, Rachel and I were moving to Hull from Biggleswade (it all looks like ‘Hull’ from Bedfordshire, even though Anlaby is in the East Riding!) a very sincere member of our congregation in Biggleswade asked me, in all seriousness, whether I had chosen to go to Hull, or had been sent by the Bishop! (The implication being that it was a form of punishment!). I did assure her that (a) I had chosen this and (b) actually it was an ok place, and she would do well to come to my Licensing and see it for herself. Actually, she did, and was pleasantly surprised!
Over a decade later, I attended a seminar for clergy in York (on ‘deliverance’ ministry of all things) and the then Bishop of Hull sidled up to me as we were having coffee, to ask me if I would consider applying for Holy Trinity. I have to say that I was not too enthusiastic! Sorry, and all that! I did eventually apply, of course, (after a great deal of thinking) and was unsure even as I went into the interview if I would accept the post if it was offered it. But, by the end of the interview I knew that, in that eventuality, I would need to be obedient to God’s leading and accept.
Nearly nine years after arriving here in September 2010, I can honestly say that it has felt like an amazing white-knuckle white-water ride! Some stuff has certainly happened! It has been exhilarating, exhausting, exasperating and exciting. But, truthfully, it has been a privilege to be part of the extraordinary journey of this church and, moreover, to be able to share it with such a group of extraordinary people. And, because the life of a church is never about ‘the Vicar’, and because of the amazing and dedicated team of leaders, staff and volunteers here, the journey towards God and bringing in his kingdom in the city through the work of its Minster, will continue to flourish and bear fruit for years to come.
Vicars come and go – you don’t need me to tell you that. A quick glance at the ‘Vicars’ Board’ in the Nave will illustrate the point. My mere nine years are but as a drop compared
to the likes of John Healey Bromby and his tenure of seventy years! That said, we have witnessed some one-off never-to-be-repeated events, such as the re-ordering of Trinity Square and of the Nave, the City of Culture and the re-designation of Holy Trinity as Hull Minster. We have seen encouraging growth in numbers, spiritual depth and our capacity to serve our community, but I believe that God has so much more to reveal to this church, and achieve through her, in terms of these growth areas and what they do to help usher in God’s kingdom in the city.
For me, the people have always been the most important facet of our life – the word church literally means ‘an assembly’ in the Bible – but the stunning heritage building in which we meet is obviously very significant too. A former Archdeacon of the East Riding told me in 2010 that he considered the biggest challenge for Holy Trinity was to decide whether it was primarily about ‘Serving or Preserving’. He was right! But I do believe that we have actively sought to put serving first, and the building serving the mission of God through his church. Paradoxically, that actually helps to preserve the building, of course! And I hope that Serving will always be front and centre here.
It will be the people of Hull and its Minster that I will miss most, frankly. Nothing has given me more pleasure than to see you encounter God in your lives, either for the first time, or in times of refreshing and personal commitment. That work will not stop this side of heaven; we all have our L-plates on, no matter who we are! Part of loving our neighbour is to journey together and encourage one another, especially when we stumble and find life a struggle.
During a vacancy, one of the chief tasks for everyone is to seek to uphold the unity of the church in its life and purpose. This will not only sustain you and enable growth to continue but will be a wonderful gift to the next Vicar of Hull Minster. The words of St. Paul to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:4-7) seem very apt in this situation, and it is with these that I sign off:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
With my love and prayers,