What we leave behind

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Last Saturday I went to a little village in Staffordshire called Mavesyn Ridware, for the memorial service for my old university chaplain, Jonathan. Jonathan had been brought up there, but I knew him getting on for 40 years ago, when I was a student at Dundee.

After being a Chaplain, Jonathan was a vicar in different places in the Midlands, but what was striking was that there were 20 of us who had come from around the country who had known Jonathan in his Dundee days, all that time ago.

What was it that had made such an impact on us? It certainly wasn’t that Jonathan was cool – he had been brought up at the Old Hall and he talked with a rather posh accent, which we always teased him about. He didn’t look very impressive, with his drab cloths and understated manner, and he was quite traditional in many ways – as you can tell by the language he chose for his service.

But there was a warmth and genuineness about him – a serious concern for you, along with an enjoyment of teasing and being teased. He really got to know us – he cared for our souls. The friend and fellow priest who spoke told how Jonathan described his ministry in Dundee as ‘positive undermining, doing irreparable good’.

He certainly did irreparable good to us. Partly by introducing us to some rich spiritual resources – taking us to Alnmouth Friary, and Iona, arranging Quiet Afternoons – which ended up being not very quiet – and leading a simple but profound communion service on Sundays at the Chaplaincy, often followed by lunch.

Where did all of this come from? Well, Jonathan had talked to a few of us about his experience as a child, of looking up at the church tower, and feeling that this was his home. He went to a Quaker school, and learnt about silence there, but when we were getting all excited about charismatic renewal he also revealed that he thought that he actually spoke in tongues, in the bath. Despite his natural conservatism, he was open to the spirit in his ministry, and in the conversations he had with us. It was more about being than doing – somehow through his being he lived and shared the accepting love of God. And he could be very practically helpful – he once lent me £100 – and I wasn’t the only one.

We heard some verses from Psalm 84 at the service: ‘Blessed is the man – and woman – whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are thy ways – blessed is the one who putteth their trust in thee.’

Sometimes we feel that we should be doing many things – we should be achieving things, impressing people, creating a legacy. Jonathan did create a legacy, just by focussing on this one thing – putting his trust at a very deep level in God, finding his strength in him, and walking in his ways.

So let us pray for the same grace…

We might light to think of those who have somehow, through their lives, allowed God’s love to shine upon us…

Loving Father, we thank you for those who have shone your love into our lives. We thank you for the way that their lives have spoken to us. May we honour their gift by the way that we live…

Loving Father, you call us to put our trust in you. Sometimes it’s very hard. When we go through the vale of misery, may we find there also a well from which we can draw life giving, healing water…

Loving father, may we be doorkeepers, holding wide the door of the home you invite us into – standing there to welcome those who hesitate or who don’t feel good enough – making known through the way we are, your warm and accepting love…

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