By Archbishop Linda Nicholls
Do you remember that feeling in the pit of your stomach when September began each year?
As the summer ended and a new school year began we faced change − a new teacher, new classes, different classmates and new challenges. Some faced September with eager anticipation while others dreaded the adjustments ahead and most of us felt a mixture of fear, anxiety, hope and excitement.
I rather suspect that is how we are feeling as we face the coming months of changes. I will end my ministry as Bishop of Huron on September 30th. These almost three years as your diocesan bishop will remain in my heart as a treasured gift. You welcomed me so warmly; taught me about ministry in southwestern Ontario; and worked with me to face our challenges of living the Five Marks of Mission sustainably.
My excitement at the challenge of being the Primate is deeply tempered with the regret of leaving Huron. Many people have also shared their mixed emotions with me − regret that I am leaving so soon; joy in my call as Primate; and some apprehensions about the coming transition to another new bishop.
Whenever we face change we face letting go of something and entering into new experiences. We know we will face change in every season of our lives. Throughout my ministry I have held onto a verse of scripture that was shared with me as I was leaving Canada to teach in India. A good friend gave me a locket with a verse inside from Deuteronomy. It was spoken by Moses to Joshua as the Israelites were preparing to cross into the land promised to them, a land that Moses would not see. Facing uncertainties and fears Moses offers Joshua this promise from God − ‘It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you: he will not leave (fail) you, nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:8).
My locket with the words ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ has long since disappeared − but the verse has remained as a touchstone for me. In times of challenge, despair or joy and even when I was not sure where God was in a situation, I held on to that promise, certain that if God was with me if I would listen and seek God.
So I bequeath this same verse to you, individually and as a diocese, as you move into a new time, a new ‘land’ with a new bishop. Both you and I go into the unknowns of that future with God beside us. For God is always with us ready to guide, encourage, forgive and challenge us as we daily live the faith that has been marked with a cross on our lives.
I ask for your prayers for me as I too enter a new ‘land’ and face the anxieties and uncertainties of change. My prayers will be with you as you discern the best person to serve as your bishop for the next part of your journey.
As we go into the future − let us both take a deep breath and remember that we do not go into that future alone. We go with God, who has promised us − ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’