As Rev Sue Gowling approaches retirement from circuit ministry, she reflects on her journey in faith.
Dear friends and neighbours
At times, we Methodists use some rather quaint turns of phrase! One of them, is 'sitting down'.
This summertime I shall be 'sitting down'. What that actually means is I shall be retiring from circuit ministry.
I began my circuit ministry in September 2007 – across what was the old Bournemouth Circuit. One of the first appointments was attending the final service at Punshon Memorial Methodist Church in central Bournemouth.
I was ordained at St Chad's church in Shrewsbury in 2009 – the most joyful of times!
Over my years in the Bournemouth Circuit, I have had the privilege of being in pastoral charge of all their five churches: Trinity Southbourne, St Georges Boscombe, Victoria Park, Winton and Kinson.
Then the Bournemouth Circuit merged with the Poole and Swanage Circuit and became the Poole Bay Circuit. Some five years ago when Rev Chris became unwell – I moved here to Broadstone. It was a huge culture shock for me – not least because Boscombe is one of the most impoverished areas of the United Kingdom and the average life expectancy of a male born in Boscombe is only 71 years whereas here in Broadstone, it is 84 years.
During my time over in the Poole and Swanage side of the circuit I have had the privilege of being in pastoral charge, or shared pastoral charge, of many of the churches: Broadstone, Lytchett Matravers, Wool, Upton, Wareham and Swanage.
Over the years I have come to know so many different folk, all of whom I am proud to call my sisters and brothers in Christ, and I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to 'walk alongside you', sharing your joys and sorrows of life's journey. Over the years to date, I have conducted nearly 250 funerals and shared in many baptisms and marriages. We have wept together and laughed out loud together. We have prayed together and studied Scripture together. We have met with our Lord Jesus at His table and shared in His great feast – what a privilege!
I have had the honour of being part of the Circuit Ministry Team and wider Circuit Leadership Team.
I have also ministered with a great bunch of ecumenical colleagues over the years and I will definitely remember our times of fellowship together, our meetings and especially the laughs we have had when we lunch together :-)
What will I be doing when I sit down? Well, life for Colin and I will change and I am looking forward to living in the countryside rather than on a busy main road. I'm also looking forward to spending more time with my family.
I have many folk to thank – too many to name – but I guess I will mention the Leadership Team at Broadstone – but also those from our church and the wider community who have helped make Broadstone Methodists the centre of the Broadstone community – you have all been amazing!
I must also thank my long-suffering husband Colin – I couldn't have fulfilled my vocation without you.
But most of all I thank God for His call upon my life and for His great love for me even though I wandered far from Him until that very special sunny evening on 4 September 1995 when I met Jesus. What a wonderful, 'white-knuckled ride' ministry has been and what a privilege!!
I pray that God will bless you all.
With love and prayers