AT the start of the year, I announced to the congregation at Hayling Island Baptist Church that after seven years of being their minister, I would be moving on to a new challenge, with a role in Welwyn Garden City as the senior minister of Panshanger Church.
Last Sunday, March 26, we celebrated together and said our goodbyes, which was an incredibly emotional time for all of us.
The past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster, and to leave Hayling Island has been, and is, an unimaginable wrench.
Hayling Island Baptist Church and the community hold so many memories for me, especially as it was my first church: that kind of history cannot be replicated.
But I know in God there are good things ahead.
The people of Hayling Island hold much of my heart, which I can only leave here as I continue on with my journey.
Ministers are called to come alongside a church for a while and then to move on to somewhere new.
However, the church is much bigger than that: it existed before they came and will flourish quite happily after they have gone. Hayling Island Baptist Church is no different in that regard.
Recently, among many tears, I have been encouraged as I remember how other people in the Bible also shed tears.
There were the tears of David in the Psalms; the tears of Paul’s departure from the Ephesian elders; and the tears of Jesus at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and over the city which he loved.
It seems to me that God has given us the gift of tears as part of our humanity, and that life in Jesus should make us more fully human and not less.
There is, therefore, nothing wrong with shedding a tear or two, as a reminder of your emotional connection to something, or someone.
My thanks and my love go to all those who have walked with me in so many ways in these past seven years, for which I am eternally grateful.
In particular, I want to pay tribute to the leadership team of Hayling Island Baptist Church: I could not have served God without their loving support.
I would like to thank the community of Hayling Island and the wider community, who have encouraged me and supported me, especially since my HIV status was made public.
This was a difficult thing for many people.
However, it is a real credit to those who have not let it change the way we are as a church and community.