Muriel and I have some very fond memories of our time in Wednesfield.
We arrived 15 years ago when the Church on Wood End Road was still relatively new, and I was "new" too. It was at Wednesfield that, as a Minister, I took my first Baptism, my first Wedding, my first Funeral and my first Communion service. All very significant steps along the way. At the time it was a steep learning curve for me, which, without patience and loving support of the congregation, would have been much more difficult. I have always been deeply grateful that you were "there" for me, and sometimes your love was expressed in a very practical way. Shortly after I had shivered my way into church at the head of a funeral cortege you had a whip round and presented me with a wonderful warm woollen cloak, which I still wear, and have used many times when talking about Blind Bartimaeus and his cloak. I think of you all whenever it comes out.
Where to start with memories? There are so many. I remember somewhat in awe of my predecessor Roland Bamford and promising myself I wouldn't tell any jokes, as he was matchless at that. Nevertheless there was a lot of fun and laughter, and quite a bit of hard work. Muriel wasn't around much on Sundays but she pitched in with the new Moms 'n' Tots and Shell Groups. In a day when church wasn't especially "cool" we were dealing with Waiting Lists and charging admission. They were lively days when we achieved much, both in the church and in the local community, and touched a lot of people's lives.
The system of itinerancy that we have sometimes brings difficulties with it. We sometimes wish we could work with a long-term plan and regret broken partnerships. One of the great strengths of moving around, however, is that it enables experiences to be shared. Although you may not know it, the experience I gained at Wednesfield with a young congregation which had recently come together and was building its life and mission and making plans for the future, with all the joys and frustrations that entails, has been the source of insight and inspiration for many other groups and congregations. God has called you to be the Methodist Church on Wood End Road, and that makes you uniquely special and locally important. At the same time your story is being told and your faith and witness is reaching out into the life of the wider world more than you perhaps realise. In the last 25 years you have played, and continued to play, a significant role in the building of God's Kingdom in the world.
I thank God for the last 25 years and pray God's Blessing in your life and work in the next 25.
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