In the novel by Joanne Harris and movie, "Chocolat" Vivienne is a wanderer. She moves in to town on the breath of the wind. When the wind changes direction, she and her daughter move on. It does not seem to be something she relishes, she just kind of accepts.
It is something that I have known in my own life. As a child and a teen, my dad worked with the banks. The joke in our household was that as soon as our house was landscaped, it was time to move. And so we moved a number of times. This wandering also comes from my ancestors who followed the buffalo all across North America. Brian's family were also wanderers. Some of his ancestors were tinkers who travelled in Caravans in England.
In my own ministry, I have spent much of my time as an Intentional Interim Minister. That has meant that I have had the chance to work with a number of faith communities over the years and then move on. Some of these placements have been wonderful, others very difficult. But the one common thing was that it was always hard to say goodbye. You'd think with practise it would get easier. But it doesn't.
Our wanderings have taken Brian and myself many places. Speaking for myself, I have felt very much enriched by the learnings that I have gathered over the years. I have even been fortunate to work here in Australia. It was extremely gratifying that a congregation was willing to take a chance, with words of encouragement from a few key people, on a minister 16,000 kms away. And it was amazing that the congregation was just as they had described themselves. We have worked so well together. We have laughed, cried, and prayed together. I must say that this has been the most satisfying of all of my ministries. Truly God was at work in our midst.
But then came reality. The government in its wisdom has been making immigration more and more difficult and has been cutting down avenues by which people can apply to stay in Australia. The Church governing bodies have always been very open and honest with me. Under present church legislation and agreements with the government, they would be happy for me to stay, but they cannot sponsor our application to stay. So we have to leave at the end of our present Visa which is July 25th, 2019.
I take a few things from this. One is uncertainty. But that has never bothered me. I am used to it. There has been uncertainty in life before. We lived with uncertainty when we entered the adoption process. As the first same sex male couple (as a couple) to apply to adopt a child, there were many barriers that we faced. But Anthony did arrive. When we decided that we might want to come to Australia, there was the uncertainty about if we could get a Visa, if we could get church approvals, if we could find a congregation that wanted us. But it came through. And now we face uncertainty again. Where do we go? Where is the Spirit leading? The way forward is not clear now, but it will be.
I take from it love. Since we have been gradually dispersing the news about our departure, the amount of love and care that we have received has been tremendous. This love has come from friends from all over the globe. Such wonderful things have been said. The support of Neutral Bay Uniting has been tremendous. Thank you for all you have done for Brian and I. It has been a joy to be with you. Thanks to colleagues in ministry in the zone, presbytery, and Synod. I have been blessed by your love and support and I hope that with God's grace, I have blessed you.
I take from this experience that I have grown. The past four years has taught me much. New understandings of how the church works. Some understandings of how the church works in a different context. New ideas of how like the United Church of Canada, other denominations do some things well and get bogged down in the issues that we face.
Will we be back in Australia sometime? God knows. We would like to come back sometime whether it is to visit or whether it is to work. And do know that once we are settled, you are all expected to come visit.
So it seems that we must wander once more. Like Vivienne, it is not our choice, it just is. But maybe all of us can take heart in the words of TS Eliot. "It is the journey not the arrival matters." Thank you for letting us journey with you. Blessings.