17th March marked my retirement, with a last Sunday service in Solihull and people saying nice things. But how to even begin to reflect on 37 years of ministry?! Apart from the day-to-day details, I return again to the image of the Potter which is offered by both Isaiah and Jeremiah in their prophecies and which naturally appeals to me.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 18. 1-6
On the one hand there is the experience of shaping a pot and, when things do not go quite right, being able to 'start again', remoulding and creating something fresh. The experience of ministry may well be of things not going to plan, but the opportunity to re-shape something, to heal or re-build is something that comes from God.
At the outset I had no idea where my ministry would lead me, but now, looking back, I can see a shape, a pattern, a plan, as if I have been the clay in God's hands.
Pastoral ministry in Crosby, Liverpool, and ecumenical parish in Runcorn, Cheshire, Birmingham Churches Together, the Free Churches Group nationally and back to pastoral ministry in Solihull amalgamating three different congregations. Many are the times when plans have not worked out (they were not of God) and it was 'back to the drawing board' of prayerful reflection. But far more are those time when it has been clear that God's hand has been in things. He is the Master Potter and I have only ever dabbled in faith!