Life seems to have been ridiculously busy over the past two weeks with talks to give about the Dioceses Commission, training days for area deans and lay chairs, meetings at Church House and the usual run of services and other meetings. As well as that, organised by Vicki and the good folk of Christ Church Harrogate Centre, we have succeeded in moving the Archdeaconry office to Harrogate. My successor, the Revd Nicholas Henshall, has now been 'in post' for three days he is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org
So, sadly, it is time to say 'goodbye' on Archdeacon in the Dales. Thank you to all who have read regularly and to those who have dipped in occasionally. Thank you to all who have commented, encouraged or admonished either on the bolg or by e mail or when we have met. I now realise the potential of digital space to create community. Yes, it is a different sort of community from the one that meets face to face, and it not unrelated to that community as it brokers introductions of people with similar interests and concerns. It is also a community that can lobby for things. I have been astonished how many casues or concerns I have been drawn into through the online community and how much difference can be made by using the internet to organise debate, protest and mutual support. It is also an effective way to get into deep conversations with people about matters of faith. And it can be fun!
I was delighted to see so many at my farewell service at St Mary's Richmond on 20th January despite the appalling road conditions. A huge thank you to all who braved the elements and also to those who sent their apologies - having broken my arm in the snow in 2009 I am always pleased when people decide to stay at home rather than risk their safety. I cannot reply to everyone individually, but I do thatnk you you all most sincerely for your thoughtfulness, love and friendship. St Mary's choir once again sang a superb evensong and the hospitality flowed. Thank you, too, to John Chambers, Antony Kirby, Colin Hicks, Gillian Lunn and the refreshment team for organising the occasion. It was good to be among freinds and, though we will miss you all a great deal, I am sure we will be back from time to time to visit - we definitely have North Yorkshire on our (short) list of places for future holidays!
Someone asked me what my most abiding memories of the Archdeaconry will be. 'Too many to say,' is the answer, but here are some:
- Slithering around on the ice in Aldbrough St John's on the way to an induction and being rescued by two kind people - one in a landrover and the other who had braved the elements to walk across the ice rink that was the village road.
- Visiting the church at Kirkby Wiske to take a harvest service and finding it almost entirely surrounded by water.
- Carols by candle light and harmonium at Thorton Steward.
- Arranging to meet a farmer in the fog 'at the third cattle grid' on the moors above Nidderdale. I had my doubts, but we connected up OK!
- Chips sitting on the wall with the bikers at Hawes after an evening meeting.
- An open air ordination at Stalling Busk on a sultry summer's evening over looking Semerwater. (I had to remind the congregation that even the mosquitoes are God's own creatures.)
- Complimenting a vet on his goat, only to discover it was a Norwegian sheep!
- Stopping the car in numerous places (The Stang, Buttertubs, the road from Leyburn to Grinton above Swaledale, the road down from Green How across Bewerley Moor to Pateley) just to thank God for the majesty of the land and to drink it in for a few moments.
- Going to countless churches and homes and schools and receiving a warm welcome.
- The wonderful food - I can truly say I have never tasted better food than in Yorkshire!
- Worshipping with 12 people or with 350, using the Book of Common Prayer or a powerpoint projector and Twitter, in a Grade 1 listed building or a tent, sitting on bales.
- The liveliness and willingness to serve of the people who identify themselves as Christian in every community.
Thank you all for 6 years I will never forget. I will keep you in my prayers, especially over the next few months as decisions are made about the future shape of the Church of England in Yorkshire, and hope you will keep me in yours!