When I first came to take a service at Whitburn in January 2014, there was snow on the ground. I had been dropped off beside the dolphin statues, and walked up the path alongside Cornthwaite Park, with the golden weathervane of the church ahead of me. It was a breath-taking sight, and it still thrills me six years later.
The delight with the view was nothing compared to the warmth of the welcome I felt on entering the ancient building, and again that feeling has never left me. I have been loved, encouraged and uplifted week after week. In my working life I have always had a sense of failure, which I am sure some of you share – that sense that tomorrow they will realise I was the wrong choice for the job, and I am only a day away from the sack. Whitburn has truly healed that, and you have given me a sense of worth that I have never before experienced.
I remember offering to do any pastoral work that might be needed in the interregnum, then being amazed to see this printed in the parish magazine, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2015 the wardens asked if I would consider covering until a new priest was appointed, and I agreed to do it for twelve months so that the new person could find their way into the post as I withdrew. That was almost five years ago, and I am still covering.
You all helped and supported Sheila and I as her health increasingly declined, and loved me through her death. You then gave me a continued encouragement in the months that followed, and I will never forget the wonderful memorial service.
In my time here it has been my privilege to see new people join the church, and the relationship with the village schools and the academy strengthened. It has also been a delight to be involved with the Barnes Institute, which goes from strength to strength, and which hosts our church’s Hot Chocolate Drop-in for the young people at the academy.
I then met Linda, (who sat somewhere near the back of the church) at a dance in the Barnes Institute, and we began going out together. You then put on a wonderful wedding celebration for us at the end of last August, and we could not be more grateful for all the good will that has followed.
I am now in my 75th year, and realise that the time has come to step back from leading the church and its worship, and to explore retirement, which was supposed to have started in 2011, but which has been put on hold until now. I am delighted that Revd Vernon Cuthbert is taking over as parish priest at Whitburn. However, due to the current pandemic, whilst he will be responsible for the ministry of the church from May 4th, I will continue in a pastoral role until we are all free to worship together again.
Linda and I send you our love and gratitude for all that you mean to us.
P.S. Whilst we are stepping back from duty, and taking up new interests, we are not moving to Malibu!