A farewell

After 25 years in the Republic of Ireland – 20 of those in theological education with Irish Bible School and later Irish Bible Institute – I’m moving North across the border to become Principal of Belfast Bible College.

It’s an honour and a challenge – one which is both exciting and daunting at the same time. BBC is one of the larger Bible Colleges in the UK and has a crucial place in broad evangelical theological education and training in Northern Ireland; it is linked with Queen’s University Belfast (post-grad and undergrad) and Cumbria University (undergrad); has earned an excellent reputation for Christian training; has a global missions perspective and has a very strong team, both teaching and support staff with whom I look forward to working and quite a few whom I know already.

The Board and staff have been very welcoming and my prayer (which you are more than welcome to join!) is that I will be a blessing to the college: in leading the team; in strategic direction; in teaching and working with students; and encouraging personal, academic and spiritual development.

That’s ahead. This post is looking back to say farewell.

Saying goodbye to many dear friends in IBI and in Maynooth Community Church is something that I didn’t think I would be doing.  We were married in Tipperary, our children have been born and raised in the Republic, we were settled in work, church and community and I had no plans to return North.

But I am sure that God has been gently pushing, directing and then opening the door to BBC.

So this is a very fond farewell to students, staff, teachers and volunteers at IBI with whom I have had the privilege of working, laughing, praying, hoping, planning and sometimes lamenting with. I will miss you all deeply. It has been quite a journey and I pray for God’s generous provision and blessing on the Institute in the years ahead as it continues to serve a vital function of training and leadership development within the Irish church.

Also farewell, in a more drawn out way as I commute for a while, to fellow elders and members of MCC. You have been and are close family who enrich and bless our lives beyond measure. I am deeply grateful to have been involved in MCC since its inception over 10 years ago under the leadership of Rev Keith McCrory. We’ve gone through a lot together and it’s a place where God’s Spirit is at work doing what he does best – creating self-giving loving relationships.

And, at the risk of getting too verbose (again), this brings to mind how, about 26 years ago at London Bible College (now LST), little notes with a cryptic imperative appeared in the students’ pigeon holes. They said

“Take Care of Tomorrow’s Memories.”

No-one had an idea what they were about until the next chapel service when Dr Peter Cotterell (one of my favourite teachers and supervisor of my undergrad dissertation in missiology) spoke. The notes were his typically creative way of getting people interested and thinking beforehand (must have worked – I still remember it).

His text was Romans 16 and Paul’s long and rich list of people he has worked with. It’s a fascinating glimpse of  the relational network of the apostle. We love to abstract and theologize Paul as if he was some sort of disembodied mind producing finely crafted systematic theology for scholars to write books about. But here he is commending, thanking, greeting and encouraging; talking fondly of numerous ‘dear friends’, co-workers, fellow apostles (including Junia) – as well as Rufus’ mother who had been like a mother to him.

Peter’s theme was the importance of loving, deep relationships at the heart of all Christian ministry. His cryptic imperative was always to keep working at relationships, not as an optional secondary aspect of ministry, but as the actual context in which authentic Christian ministry takes place. For how we relate today soon become tomorrow’s memories.

Thank you to all who have given me good memories to treasure.

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