.... and back from celebrating a few weeks early our silver wedding.
My much more widely travelled wife has been in Russia on other occasions. But for me this was a first. And it was wonderful. Our non-stop travelling was formidable. And the more I saw the more ignorant I knew I was.... one of the learning phases of growing old!
But the Russian folk were fabulous. And the moment I mentioned I was from Salisbury ... I can't quite put it into words.... there was an overwhelming desire to embrace us and make us feel we were more than welcome. I am not clever enough to enlarge on this but following the post war Stalin regime with its obliteration of anything Christian and yet see now with churches vibrant and bulgingly full of people, well, it just is wonderful. Persecution always brings out the best in Christianity. Is that a learning message? Discuss!
Over the next few months your churches will, with Father Michael's departure, need to face up to the fact that there will have to be much more Christian thinking about the future of the Benefice and small minded parochialism will have to be a thing of the past. This has been a job of mine for over forty years and with some success. But hopefully by God's Grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit your much loved churches will survive with imagination and open mindedness. In this my last letter to the benefice I have put in an envelope the names of the churches which will have closed in five years time. Please prove me wrong!
Meanwhile it has been a joy to have been of some small service to the Benefice. BUT always think in Christian terms not parochial ones if you want the church in your village to survive. Thank you for many generosities of spirit shown to me. Robert P.