I had a very happy and fruitful Sabbatical time, but it is really good to be back! I am so grateful for this time away from parish duties, but I am also really grateful for your generous welcome back into the fold.
God has been very good to me in these recent months. I have so enjoyed a change of pace, and the chance to attend some conferences, to have some retreat time at Lee Abbey, to visit some clergy friends and reflect on life and ministry, to read 22 books, to spend more focused time with God in prayer, to do some unhurried bible study, to visit my father and my sisters, and to spend more time with Becky, Harry and Joseph (we had two weeks in France, visiting Disneyland, going up the Eiffel Tower, and eating pastries). In addition, I saw Paul Daniels performing live in London, visited some magic shops, practised some new sleight of hand, and attended the Bristol Magic Convention.
Some of what I have learnt, and some of the subjects I have reflected on, are bound to emerge in different ways in the coming months and years. You can read about one of them under the Tough Questions heading, further on in this edition of FOCUS.
Last time I wrote for FOCUS it was February. Then I blinked, and now I’m writing for July! Which means that we are about to say good-bye and thank-you to Bob Banfield for his amazing service of us all, as verger at St. John’s. Do come to the party on Friday 4th July if you are able to. I know that I am among so many who can say: ‘Bob was the first to welcome me to St. John’s’. Bob, I have so appreciated your Christian service for me personally, for us all in the parish, for the building of St. John’s, for the people of Yeovil and for all visitors. But above all, you have been a servant of the Lord Jesus, and we honour you for it.
It seems much too early to be writing the next bit: but we shall also be saying farewell to the Lewis family before long (lunch party on Sunday 20th July). Tim, Beth, Amelie, Hettie, Olivia: we thank you all so much for all you have been and done among us. Your contributions in so many areas have been such a blessing. Everyone knows how much I personally will miss Tim as a gifted and trusted colleague and friend in ministry. But we shall stay in touch, and we promise (hold me to this!) to pray for the Lewises and for the work of the gospel at Cranleigh School while Tim is chaplain there.
Please pray too for a new clergy post which has been advertised: an associate minister to work 80% in the parish with us, and 20% as Chaplain to Yeovil College. This is an exciting opportunity as we look ahead, and we trust it would give us the chance to foster closer links with Yeovil College, its staff and students, and to contribute further to the mission of God across the town.
On the last day of my Sabbatical, I read this verse in my quiet time: ‘Tell Archippus: See to it that you fulfil the ministry that you have received in the Lord’ (Colossians 4:17). It seemed very apt for me at that moment, and indeed it is a word from the Lord for us all.
All best wishes – James.