Transitions. Saying good bye to whole community of people you have loved and learned with, is hard. I have done that several times in the last four years, and it doesn’t get any easier. Two weeks ago I left the attachment parish I have been working with/in during all of my ordination training so far. Next week I start over in a new parish. Down the line, not so very long away, I will be having to say a whole load more good byes as I leave the college where I have been training, and take up my curacy. But that is getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday, the incumbent of the parish I have just left, also moved on. He has been called to higher things. I went back back for his final service and the meal following. It was a heart-tugging day, full of mixed emotions, as these occasions always are. The hymns that he had chosen, spoke eloquently to a community in a time of transition.
We opened with a hymn whose words were written in the 7th century, but are no less true today: That God, who had held this church through many centuries, would continue to be the unshakeable foundation on whom it can continue to build His Kingdom.
Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone; chosen of the Lord and precious, binding all the church in one; holy Zion's help forever, and her confidence alone. To this temple, where we call thee, come, O Lord of Hosts, today! With thy faithful loving-kindness hear thy people as they pray, and thy fullest benediction shed within its walls alway.
I have been singing hymns for as long as I have been able to talk. The next one, Guide me O thou great Redeemer , is a wonderful Welsh hymn. Every time I sing it, I can hear my father’s deep bass voice resonating it’s comforting words.
Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer;
Be thou still my strength and shield;
Be thou still my strength and shield.
“I am weak, but thou are mighty, hold me in thy powerful hand… let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through. Be thou still my strength and shield. “ A prayer for the those on the road, and those left behind.
During the Eucharist the choir sang Rutter’s The Lord Bless you and Keep you. I can’t add anything to this beautiful ancient blessing:
Finally we closed with a modern hymn, I the Lord of sea and sky which opens like this:
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
Here am I, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
‘ I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.’ Moving on.