I would like to start this clergy letter by extending a very big thank you to everyone from St Cuthbert’s and the wider communities of Marton and Coulby Newham for making my family and I feel so welcome since our arrival in January. We have settled well into the
Vicarage and are reasonably familiar with our surroundings, in particular with the local takeaways! We had a very smooth move day from our previous Vicarage in Thorp Arch, with no hitches so practically speaking. However, the emotional transition has not been so easy. We were preparing to move over the Christmas period which was tough, and have left behind familiar surroundings and the church family from our previous parishes.
All of us encounter moves and transition in varying degrees throughout our lives; it is unavoidable. Employment opportunities, economic factors, retirement, illness, and family situations etc often lead to the requirement for a move or at least some form of change, bringing a mixture of anxiety and excitement in most cases, but great sadness in others. However, moving house is just one kind of change and transition, there are of course many others. Any change involves some sort of loss means where settled and familiar ways are left behind, or momentarily ‘lost’ for a time whilst adjustment takes place. Sadly, some people will experience more painful change such as job loss, relationship breakdown, or sudden illness. Of course all of us at varying points in our lives will endure the greatest loss and change of all, that of bereavement.
The experiences or symptoms of loss are often the same whatever the change, but carry different levels of intensity depending on the circumstances and type of loss. Change and transition can bring with them sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, shock, numbness, anxiety, and even despair. Such feelings interrupt our lives leaving us yearning for happiness, peace, and contentment.
The comfort that we can take from the life of Jesus is that, as God in human flesh, he knew what it was to experience human joy and suffering to the full. This included the pain of loss, felt most intensely when he was on the cross. He like no other can empathise with the whole range of emotions and fears that we encounter when we are confronted with change and loss in our lives. His promise is that he remains with us now by his spirit, and longs for us to recognise that he journeys with us through every happy event, challenge and change that we might encounter.
In the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, we are told that everything has its time; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to break down, and a time to build up.
Life’s journey is full of periodic change and loss in amongst the joy and happiness. It is right to enjoy the good things in life, but space and time are also needed to adjust to new life circumstances following change and loss.
So, there is a time to feel anxious at the start of a new academic term, and a time to feel settled; a time to feel grieved at the loss of a job, and a time to feel purposeful again; a time for sadness and lamenting over broken relationships, but a time for reconciliation or the chance to form new relationships; or a time to grieve when bereaved, and a time to smile again. Most importantly of all, in all these situations, there always needs to be a time for God.
Revd Andy Grant