The main purpose of this simple note is to send loads of love to friends and family far and near – may you find the joy of God with you in 2015.
But also a quick update on us.
In January we will have been in Cape Town for 6 years. We live with a view of Constantiaberg in the Table Mountain National Park rising above Tokai forest and the vineyards of Constantia. But also not far from the new housing developments and informal settlements of this rapidly expanding city.
Jon with Ollie & Pip on Table Mountain
There are 4 of us (and two labradors) in the house this Christmas, and we have never had so few! After morning church celebrations we plan to picnic next to the reservoir at Silvermine, in the Park.
Sarah, home for the holiday, sings around the house and leaves poetry, painting and reading books – all “works in progress”. She has completed her degree with excellent results, so that she will return to Rhodes University for an Honours year in English Literature (and she’s pleased to have secured work as a Music Library assistant and as a tutor to English undergraduates). She is flying to Kwa-Zulu Natal after Christmas to spend time with Gareth and his family but we will see her again at Judy’s father’s 80th in January in Port Elizabeth.
Jon with Aleks
Jonathan will be celebrating his 18th at Grandpa’s 80th and he and Sarah have been persuaded to sing together. He has had a very good year, jam-packed with activity in sport, music, church youth and also Aleks, the girlfriend who lives over the mountain. He starts his final school year in January and the first term includes a part in a school musical (“Across the Universe”), Sports Day and a full athletics programme. He may be traveling in August to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the acapella group “Simply Blue”.
Stephen at Lee Abbey, North Devon
Stephen is, of course, missing (and we are missing him). He is staying on at Lee Abbey Retreat & Conference Centre in Devon, leading activities for youth and children till August and has been encouraged to apply to start in September at the Worship Central Academy at HTB, London. We are so thankful for the way he is growing in all dimensions of maturity.
My parents are so happy in their home in Johannesburg and recovering after my Dad’s bad leg break. In fact they are now in England with my brother’s family.
Judy & I with John & Andy Irvine in Cambridge
Judy and I had a wonderful time, during my 3-month sabbatical, in England and Wales. It was a gift to spend time with some special family and friends. We took Stephen with us to Cornwall to stay with Adrian and Elizabeth and then with the Jones’ family on holiday. Then to Hertford where we had a spit-roast with the Southalls and Crowthers there. It was so good to see them all looking and sounding very well.
Judy and I then continued north to Stoke and a very affirming night with members of Church Without Walls. The encouraging reminder was that “one plants the seed (of the gospel of Jesus Christ), another waters, but God makes it grow”. After that we stayed in Sheffield with good friends met at theological college and went walking in the Derbyshire Dales.
The hills above St Beuno’s, north Wales
My highlight after that was an individually guided retreat at St Beuno’s Ignatian Retreat Centre in north Wales. It was an oasis of prayer and reflection and I felt God breaking through (or me opening up) to that quiet still place with God. I came away affirmed in my identity and calling.
I then travelled to Cambridge where I met John, Richard and Warren. We were on staff together, 25 years ago, at St Barnabas, Kensington. We travelled to a cottage in Holme-next-the-sea, Norfolk for a couple of days where we prayed for each other and swopped news of old “Barnabites”. Again so encouraging to hear many testimonies of Grace and growth in faith, ministry and mission.
Judy joined me in Cambridge after her own retreat at Stanton House, near Oxford, visiting a friend in Gloucester and attending a conference on Philosophy for Children in London. The conference was recommended by the professor at UCT who is encouraging Judy to pursue further studies in this area, based on her innovative work with children at Capricorn Primary School.
I was given the privilege of preaching at Holy Trinity, where Charles Simeon was Rector for 54 years. The place was full of new students arriving for the start of the academic year.
CHS staff 2014
We returned to a happy church at CHS, a very competent staff team in place, the amazing development of the mission shaped ministry course (equipping pioneers of Fresh Expressions of church) in South Africa and plans for developing structures to resource and enable the growth. All this means that I am considering what my role should be, going into the next few years. In fact the book that I read through the sabbatical was “The Unnecessary Pastor” (Eugene Petersen & Marva Dawn) which is a challenge not to conform to what others (society and church), nor yourself, deem “necessary” in a church pastor. A pastor is to help people to Jesus so that they can follow the Good Shepherd.
It’s been lovely writing this and imagining you reading it (with cup of coffee or mulled wine?). We can give many thanks to God for many blessings. May our Father God continue to bless and keep you, make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, through Jesus Immanuel, Messiah and Melekh HaMelakhim (King of Kings).
Loads of love
Gordon, and Judy, Sarah, Stephen and Jonathan too.