So at last, a new purpose for the blog. Recording stories and impressions from this amazing trip abroad to study and explore.
It started with Don Hall enthusiastically encouraging me to take up a Cheshunt Scholarship to study for a term at Cambridge. He said it so often that I finally got the message I should check it out and try. The response was quick and positive. My initial intention was to look at issues to do with retiring, but really beg
an to feel it was an opportunity to reflect on and study being and growing a multi-ethnic congregation. Next step was to put it to Bernie who was amazed and delighted that my proposal was accepted. SO it came to discussing the idea with Session and National church and Presbytery people.
First glitch! All the wisdom of Presbytery declared that I could take study leave so long as I didn’t do it during the last year of my ministry. Blrrrrrtttttt! Wrong! I found out that the rules say that we can’t take study leave after we turn 64, which is insane as that rule assumes a retiring age of 66, which was abolished some years ago. But the doyen of the great BOO said she’s been advised that “we” must stick to that rule. Session weren’t phased, “let’s just do it anyway” was their characteristic response. All I had to do was to work out where the leave was to come from. As it turned out, I had been labouring under a happy misapprehension for years. You see, if you asked me how leave I took each year, I would have told you it was the lot. Second blrrrrrrtttttt – wrong again! Bernie checked her diaries cos she was sure that we didn’t take it all. And sure enough, out of ten years at Forrest Hill, I’d taken all my leave only once. So I had a handy bank of leave stored up which added with what would be due this year (2014) gave me more than enough for a 15 week sabbatical. Huh! How about that?
So together with Session we began to plan this great sabbatical exploration. Happily we discovered that the best deal for travel was with Korean Air (KAL) via Seoul. I say happily, because with so many Koreans at Forrest Hill, it would a marvellous opportunity to see where they came from – and incidentally where our first born spent nearly 3 years teaching English. So we bought our tickets as early as we could using money from Great Aunty Superannuation’s special fund that we’d been quietly accumulating.
Session adopted that attitude that this would be a great opportunity to practice the self-sufficiency that would be necessitated by my declared retirement date of mid July 2015. So rosters for preaching and worship leadership were drawn up, including strategy for funerals should any arise while I was away.
Finally the Sunday before came, and the elders and others (including our lovely John) gathered around us during the worship to pray for us and bless us – and they certainly achieved that. Having elders who had become friends praying for us, and hearing our own youngest praying for us was quite emotionally moving. And then came my privilege to bless and pray for the congregation, assuring them that they were loving and kind people through whom God would undoubtedly work in my absence to do His good will in Forrest Hill Presbyterian Church. That combined with official and impromptu gifts of money and in one case a piece of delightful technology powered us for a very happy and exciting departure on New Year’s Eve 2013.
More about the first part of the odyssey follows.