After almost 11 years in New Brighton parish I will be leaving for pastures new – as Team Rector of the Halewood and Hunts Cross team of parishes in Liverpool Diocese. After 1,300 services, 80 baptisms, 30 weddings and 280 funerals it is time to move on.
I was 48 when I arrived, and close to 60 when I leave. I’ve changed a lot, the church has changed a lot, and the parish has changed perhaps most of all.
When I came in 2004 New Brighton was continuing its slow decline of previous decades. Today it has a ‘seaside’ buzz, lots of day trippers, new attractions, and a new level of optimism.
Places change, as do churches. Some local churches have closed, some (like the ‘Dome of Home’) have closed, and re-opened! Others, like our own St James, are being restored and renovated.
I have to say that the present climate is not an encouraging one for Christians, and we struggle with our out of date, and too large, buildings. But our churches are not buildings – they are people.
Sometimes we Christians are our own worst enemies. We argue over trivia, we are too stubborn and proud, and we don’t always offer the warm welcome we should. But the majority of Christians, with all our very human faults, do seek to worship God, share the good news that he loves EVERYONE, and seek to serve the most vulnerable, as Jesus said we should. (Local food banks are all church-based, for example.)
It has been said that Christians are short-term pessimists and long-term optimists! That is true. We can’t be otherwise, as Jesus said “I am with you until the end of the age”. He is in it for the long haul and so should all those who claim the name of Christian.
New Brighton has had its ups and downs, the churches will also – but I hope and pray all his people in New Brighton will remain long-term optimists! Jesus is with us, and seeks to bless us in ways beyond our comprehension. How can we be downhearted? It’s a journey he is calling us all to join in, to follow him and become a disciple – flaws and all! He doesn’t call perfect people – he calls real people you and me.
Goodbye and may the Lord Jesus bless you all in this beautiful place on the River Mersey.