To Laugh or to Cry...

...That is the question.

This morning was the last time I ‘churchwardened' (yes, I've decided to make churchwarden into a verb, along with things like action and resource) the 11:00am service at St Tees. In terms of organisation (and through nobody's, and everybody's (definitely including me!), fault) it was quite the most chaotic service I can ever remember 'churchwardening'. If it had been my first, I should probably have run screaming from the building, down the steps, and sneaked off to join Lancaster Free Methodist church. But it wasn't, it was my last, and somehow the chaos seemed fitting... Though at the time I really wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

This is by way of a sort of retrospective random ramble through six years of life.

When I was first asked to consider becoming churchwarden, my initial reaction was to laugh and say something along the lines of ‘You must be joking!' - it was so far outside what I had ever experienced, and such a long way beyond my comfort zone. But, gradually, I came to realise that this was God's call on my life for the next few years. So I agreed, reluctantly, to take on the role - thinking that, if I did really badly, I could refuse to stand for a second year. And now, here I am, at the end of the maximum allowable term of office, six years, wondering where the time has gone.

I am happy to say that God was faithful when He called me and has provided all that I have needed in terms of personal resources. It has been a very interesting, and most rewarding, six years. I won't lie - it has been incredibly hard at times, both in terms of the work, and the personal cost. But it has been very rewarding too...

All along I have been acutely aware that a lot of people pray, faithfully, for me and my fellow wardens. I have been forced, by the nature of the role, to 'come out of my shell'; to stop hiding in corners - as is my natural inclination - so I have made many new friends - and what friends they have turned out to be. Old friendships have been deepened significantly. But I think the main thing is that I have grown closer to God. I have been healed by God, both physically and emotionally. The biggest blessing of all though, is that I have experienced how deeply I am loved, by God and His people - what was 'head knowledge' has become 'heart knowledge'; what I 'believed', I know now for certain. That is amazing. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that that was God's plan - that He would use my service to bless me, and to cause others to bless me - and bless me more comprehensively than I had ever have imagined possible. I am notperhapsrich in monetary terms, but in the things which really matter I feel as though I am the richest man in the world.

It has been an enormous privilege to be allowed to serve God in our church; to work alongside the wonderful clergy and staff team; to serve with my fellow wardens, Sandie and Anne; but most of all it has been an honour and a privilege to be in church each (and almost every) Sunday, welcoming people, making sure everyone is comfortable; looking after anyone and everyone as they need it; quietly doing all those little 'behind the scenes' jobs without which it might all 'grind to a halt'.

There are things I shan't miss - like late night phone calls to tell me that the roof's leaking again; the relentless, Augean, nature of the task. But St Tees has become part of me; woven into my very being. So stopping is going to be a bit like losing part of me... But, at the same time, I'm dog-tired and desperate to rest. I have very mixed feelings; both happy and sad; I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

God bless you all.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020