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Ending & Beginning Well

By Terry Hinks.

How do ministers move on from one pastorate to another? How do they bring to an end the pastoral relationship they have built up over months and years, a relationship which involves leading worship and preaching, teaching and mentoring, pastoral care and group leadership?

These questions were very much on my heart and mind as I brought to a close a ministry of over 16 years in Romsey and Braishfield in Hampshire, and prepared to begin a new ministry in Buckinghamshire. I was involved in a ‘long farewell’ which was immensely touching and affirming. Alongside this was work to prepare the churches’ leadership for the time of ‘ministerial transition’ ahead. It was difficult to balance giving all the necessary information with not overloading people or squashing their own initiative. I don’t see myself as a heavy handed authoritarian minister or a control freak, but I could see how over the years I had accumulated a sizeable amount of power and responsibility. Just ‘knowing things’ has its own power. Shedding that responsibility brought a real sense of release, but there was also a sense of loss to work through as well. It was interesting to see the leadership and congregation begin to look beyond my ministry to the future. I had to quench my curiosity about what had been discussed at some of the planning meetings which no longer involved me. However, that was a necessary and helpful part of this detaching process that led up to the move.

Alongside the social events, with gifts and food, worship played an essential part in the final weeks at Romsey. There were services that drew in members from across the community leading up to a special service on Palm Sunday (and a final one on Easter Day). I had looked at services of release (there are a number of examples from American churches), but the liturgies felt too formal for my own context. Instead, as part of my farewell service, two of the church’s lay preachers led some prayers, and then, before the presentations and blessing, we used a simple set of responses:

For the ways we have strengthened each other in the journey of faith,

            we thank you Lord of all life.

          For the ways we have fallen short of your will for us,

we ask your forgiveness and help, God of grace and peace.

          For the ways you will lead in the years ahead,

            we put our trust in you, Lord of all life.

          For the ways you have blessed us and will bless us again,

we praise you, God of grace and peace, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

I wrote these to give me (and the whole church) an opportunity to give thanks for all that was good in the past, to ask forgiveness for our failings and to look with trust and hope to the future.

There was little time between my final service on Easter Sunday and my induction in High Wycombe and the start of the new ministry later in April. However, we did set aside a week away (in the Channel Islands) and this time was not only refreshing, but gave a space to take stock – to let go and let God. Now, in the early weeks of the new ministry with two very different churches (one village and one town centre), I have been using a workbook that a friend in ministry passed on to me to reflect on this new stage in my ministry. New Beginnings: a Pastorate Start up Workbook by Roy Oswald (Alban Institute Publication) is an American book from the 1990s, but still a useful tool. I am trying to make sure I note the things that stand out for me at this stage (before I get used to things). I am making a special emphasis on prayer (the church’s prayer and my own), people (getting to know names, gifts and needs), purpose (of the church and its activities) and planning. I hope to reflect more on this in a future article.

Terry Hinks

United Reformed Church Minister and Ministry Today Board Member

Ministry Today

You are reading Ending and Beginning Well by Terry Hinks, part of Issue 64 of Ministry Today, published in July 2015.

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