I’m about to leave Bemerton parish after 14 years, so it’s time to say goodbye (from the old English, God-be-with-ye). It’s not something for which I’ve had much practice.
Although I did plenty of short jobs in my 20’s, this is my first move for a long time - since we had children and acquired an awful lot of stuff. And after a long time you put down roots, and it feels like some are harder to pull up than others. I have had plenty of parties and farewell gatherings, so I should be getting better at it now. It’s interesting psychologically, as humans tend to avoid endings, I think it reminds us of grief and uncontrolled loss. So we deny it’s happening (oh yes, I expect we’ll see each other around) or we ignore the inevitable, or we simply flee without looking back. This aversion to goodbye is now so strong in society that many people are choosing not to have a funeral for their loved ones. Simply a party and let the undertakers deal with the body and the details, and we can pretend like there is no loss. I don’t think that’s very healthy.
We need to acknowledge we’re leaving, or someone has died, so that we can fit that piece of the jigsaw into our lives, so we can give thanks for the good, and forgive the bad. St. Athanasius said “the unassumed (into Christ) is the unhealed”, and we could rephrase that to say that the unrecognised will always cause us trouble until we deal with it. So whatever your skeletons that you’ve pushed deep down, for goodness sake find a friend or professional help. Get them out and say a proper goodbye.
So here’s my take on George Herbert and St Andrews. I came as a novice, and people were very kind as I gradually learnt about the man and the myth and the poetry. I have come to love all three, and that I will take wherever I go. I've loved the unlocked little church to pray in and sit, and to see so many others use it as well. It has a very special atmosphere. I've loved the rhythm of worship, during the week and during the seasons - there is a time meets timelessness about the church’s work.
And I give great thanks for the community of Bemerton and the community of Herbertians (still looking for a different word to describe us), for the adventures on the journey we’ve had together. Funnily enough I am leaving this urban parish to go to a village that is more 'Country Parson': one church, one village, one vicar. I’m really looking forward to it. It feels like I’m handing on a baton here - Herbert was the 23rd Rector to hold it and pass it on, I am the 46th, and I pray for the 47th, that they will find it as much of a surprise blessing as I have. Goodbye!
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