See, I am doing a new thing!Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
- Isaiah 43:19
Nearly a year ago the church community of St Christopher's was devastated by the news that long-standing church member and former churchwarden, John Clarke, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. He and Lynnette had served the church community tirelessly for decades. Lynnette had led the church through its vacancy after Graeme Pringle left, and before I arrived as vicar in September last year. They had been looking forward to a rest, and wondered where God might lead them in the years to come.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that John's illness and subsequent death seemed so unfair - none of us understood why they had to go through that time, which was so painful to them as well as the whole church community. We missed Lynnette while she gave up everything to care for John, and we grieved with her as he died on Easter Monday (on reflection, can there be a better time to go home to be with God than the season when we remember the resurrection and Jesus' victory over death?). His funeral was a fitting farewell for such a valued member of our church family; it was a significant privilege to share the service with Graeme, and we were consoled by the fact that John was no longer suffering, that he was enjoying the bliss of perfect resurrection life with God.
Death is an awful thing - especially for those left behind. There is nothing like the total separation that it brings between people who have shared so much together for so long. I've heard it said that grief is like a desert or a wasteland. This is why I think that the verse from Isaiah, above, is so relevant. I don't believe God wills for us experience suffering and grief; I believe that it's a sign that this world is broken and in need of divine healing. I do believe, however, that God happens to specialise in bringing new life out of the wasteland, and living water out of the desert - and so it has proven with Lynnette. She was sensing that God might be leading her on a different path, and then this opportunity came her way out of the blue. After having sought God, Lynnette sensed that this was the right move at the right time, and since she has made that decision, she has been more at peace, and somehow lighter. Her spark's returned. The challenge of leading the church community of St Alban's through the next few years seems like a good fit for someone with a big heart, who is appreciated here for her love and care, but also her ability to tell difficult truths when necessary.
We'll really miss Lynnette, and our prayers will go with her as she steps out on this new venture. We're looking forward, with her, to seeing the new life spring forth.