The Methodist ministry is, by its very nature, an itinerant one. Mr Wesley's ordained preachers were never meant to stay in one place for long, and, however settled one may be in a place, one knows that there will come a time to move on. For me that time has now come, and after 11 years in Sheffield the stressful process of uprooting is here.
All such moves are hard - on the minister, their family, and on the churches - as relationships, attachments and familiarities change and dissolve. All of my moves have been so, for a number of reasons, particularly the one that brought us here, as my leaving was not the most pleasant, and the experience left me with numerous 'issues' that took many years to resolve themselves. But this parting seems to be hitting me hardest of all of them.
One reason is the relationships that we as a family have built up - or re-established - here over the past 11 years. Jude, my wife, was born here: in fact the house she was born into is only about 400 yards from where we currently live. Her brothers still live here, as well as members of the wider family, and old friends from school and church. This is 'home' to her. It was in this city that mine and Jude's relationship began, developed and, 27 years ago, was celebrated in marriage. Our two sons - boys of 13 & 11 when we came here - are now men of 24 & 22. This is the place, above all the places we have lived, that they now call 'home', and leaving children to forge their own lives is never easy for a parent, but that we must do.
The churches to whom, and with whom, I have ministered, are another reason for this parting being hard. As I have mentioned, I was not in a 'good place' when we arrived in 2004, but the love, care, support and prayers of God's people have pulled me through and, I believe, have made me a better minister as a result. It's not always been an easy ride over those years, either for me or them, but the good people of Stanwood, Rivelin Glen (latterly Hall Park Head), Stannington, Dungworth, Walkley and (principally, as they are the only congregation that I've been associated with for the entirety of my time here) Wesley Hall have shown me such love and support that I will always cherish and remember with great affection.
One thing that has amazed and appalled me in equal measure is the amount of junk that we have accumulated in our time here: junk that has now been recycled, charity-shopped or shredded. I hope that, having de-cluttered quite savagely, we can keep the amount to a minimum in future.
And so we move on:. a move that, for my sake as much as for the churches, is needed. We are both ready for and in need of fresh challenges and stimulations to bring out and develop the gifts that God had given us. I leave one beautiful part of God's world for another, and as a Yorkshireman move back into 'exile' after 17 years back in 'God's own county', as we depart for Kendal and the Lake District. There there will be new geography to get to know; new people and situations to familiarise myself with; and new responsibilities as I take on the role of Superintendent Minister for the first time - a job, if I'm honest, I have coveted for a number of years, and one for which I am, perhaps, only just ready. I trust that, as always, God's timing is perfect. We'll see!
So, goodbye Sheffield, the City of Steel, a city on the move.