Sunday, 4 July 2010

Saying goodbye ... sort of ...

The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore. (Ps 121.8)

I seem to have been saying goodbye to people rather a lot over the past eight or nine months. I'm not very good at it - perhaps it's my way of resisting change - if I don't say goodbye maybe folk I really like won't move on! Silly really because I'm also a person who has moved on quite often in my life.

Tomorrow morning our friend Colin Williams will preach at the ecumenical centre before moving away from Geneva and going to be team rector in Ludlow, a beautiful historic town which is part of the distant view from my parents' house. Colin is going "home" - even if in many ways for him home is further north in England. As I prepare to say good bye to him, part of me is sad to lose another good friend from the propinquity of my daily life here in the bassin lémanique and another part of me is jealous of his sense of "home".

Last year I also nearly went "back" to work in Britain, but decided against it right at the last moment. I didn't write about that here for all sorts of reasons - it was a bit of a personal crisis for me - a difficult time and one which made me realise just how much France and perhaps in particular the French Reformed Church are where I feel "at home", at least at this time in my life. If I move away this is the base I feel I will come back to.

About 12 years ago a very good colleague who ministered in a neighbouring Reformed parish (please note "neighbouring" in the French Reformed context tends to mean between 60 and 100km away!) moved to a new charge in the south of France. I remember putting the phone down after speaking to him and his wife just before they moved house and bursting into tears. I was sad to lose a colleague and sad too because in ministry life is so full that it is very hard to find time for friendships with other ministers. What we had had was a rare time of what the French call "complicité" and it ended when he moved away. We're still pleased to see each other when we meet up, we still occasionally share a great book with one another by post. But work and the regular daily contacts in our lives mean that "complicité" is simply something from the past to give thanks for. I still miss him and miss the way we worked together and the way we could have gone on working together. My tears were also an expression of the loneliness of ministry - it's not easy and it sure ain't easy without colleagues you can trust.
Sometimes today too when people move on I grieve for a future that will no longer be.

They say that home is where the heart is and if that is so then each of my friends who moves away and onwards - to Canada and New Zealand, Romania and South Africa, the UK, Germany, Finland, Norway, Brazil, Kenya ... - takes a bit of my heart and my sense of home with them. In the 12 years since my friend and colleague set off for ministry in the south of France the only compensation for saying goodbye that I have found is that sometimes relationships with those who move away actually become deeper. Facebook, sms, email and fleeting visits means we actually exchange more ... but this isn't always the case. So perhaps I shall have to try to find my sense of "home" in the relationships and put a bit more time into building those up. In the meantime I should certainly learn to say goodbye in a more heartfelt and generous way.


Simon Oxley said...

Such saying goodbye is a strange business. Sometimes you keep in touch with friends. Sometimes you try to keep in touch with friends but you never get any feedback - perhaps because they weren't as much friends as you thought but also (more frustrating than depressing) because they just aren't good as responding other than face to face. Sometimes you find yourself in good contact with people you didn't know all that well earlier. Whatever, I think that you (I) carry those who have touched your life with you because of or in spite of regular contact.
And whatever the problems of Facebook, I have found it fascinating to be able to be in cotact with friends as an observer or as a responder.

janetlees said...

I feel for you, especially having been one of the people who did know about the Britain thing at the time, and being disappointed when it didn't come off. I miss you often and love to talk. I read this blog most days to keep up with some parts of your life. You taught me how to blog but I'm not very good at it. One good thing about friends in different places is visiting them however rarely. Is it possible to still be friends with someone you've not seen in 16 years for example. I hope so.
love Janet

Jane said...

thank you both so much ...
what can I say?
Both of you are very important to me - Janet being my best friend is really quite a trial ... I hardly make time for myself let alone others! I do love being part of your projects and crazy ideas and ilove our crazy phone calls!

Love to both of you!

Gustavo Bonato said...

When I visit Geneva, I feel - somehow - at home. That's due a little to the city but a lot to the many friends who live there. It's good to have a second place on Earth to feel at home. Thanks to all of you guys linked to the Ecumenical Center.