“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu,” so sing the children in The Sound of Music.
Surely one of the toughest aspects of being a priest or bishop is that from time to time you have to uproot, leave behind the people and places you have grown to love so much, and move to pastures new. As you say your farewells, you’re reminded of the privilege of having been a part of so many people’s lives, often sharing the sorrows as well as the joys, and knowing the stories behind the smiles.
For me, the most important symbol of my ministry is my pastoral staff. Not a beautifully decorated, bejewelled work of art in precious metal, but a real wooden shepherd’s crook. It’s a reminder that Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and calls his priests and bishops to tend his flock. When I arrived in Derbyshire as a shiny new bishop in 2016, I carried a shiny new shepherd’s staff. Recently I said to my husband that I ought to give it a good polish as its beginning to look very scratched and battered. Andrew wisely said no and reminded me that every scratch and imperfection is a reminder of a pastoral encounter.
Baptisms, confirmations, licensings; sermons preached from lofty pulpits and lowly steps; the Lord’s Supper celebrated in cathedral and front room; joys and sorrows, confidences shared; stories received of the very many ways in which God is working in people’s lives; I have loved it all.
Thank you for the cards and heartfelt messages received following the announcement of our departure. We will miss you all very much indeed.
So many expressions of farewell invoke God’s blessing; from goodbye (Godbwye - God be with you) to adieu (short for ‘I commend you to God’). May God bless you all in all that lies ahead.
And pray for us, as we will surely pray for you.