The Irreplaceable You
Well, at last, after 12 weeks (with 6 of those weeks spent in the garage) my faulty car was replaced by a bright, shiny, newer model with fewer miles on the clock and a couple of extra bells and whistles. There wasn't that much wrong with old Wesley (not named after the illustrious founder of Methodism, but because of the registration plate which began WEZ), just a warning light that kept coming on for no diagnosable reason, but the chief salesman was eager that the good name of his company should not be besmirched and so he offered me a deal which was WAY to good to pass up, and so on Friday last it was goodbye Wesley and hello Ruby, who is a nice shiny Rubi (sic) red.
My wife and children preferred Wesley's colour, which was darker and less flashy, but a few days in they have been completely won over.
This time last week I went to a special evening with our Rainbows Unit at church (4-6 year old girl guides for the uninitiated), where they were presenting a cheque for some money they had raised to go to a head injuries charity, to honour their former leader who, last year, was unexpectedly stricken with a brain aneurism, which has left her with severe handicaps. She was, however, there to accept the cheque on behalf of the charity, and as I was chatting to her before hand she was saying how delighted she was to be there, but also how interesting it was to see how things go on without you. I was at pains to emphasise that it wasn't easy for those who tried to fill the gulf after her sudden departure, or for the girls, but that it was also a tribute to her that those whom she had mentored for so long both wanted, and were able to carry on at all. But I could understand the bittersweet nature of it all.
Then today I was handed a dossier on the Church intern that we hope will be joining us from the Presbyterian Church USA in September, replacing the wonderful Hannah who will be leaving in July. The description of the new intern suggests that she will fit well into the church and community programme, but it won't be Hannah.
As a Methodist Minister, serving in one place for a limited time before being moved elsewhere, you quickly discover that you are not irreplaceable. Indeed, in terms of the church we are all, as someone wiser than I once said, like a hand in a bucket of water, or at best a bucket of sand... When the hand is removed its place is filled with either water or sand. Organisations, including the church, continue on, with new people bringing new skills and emphases. And just like Rubi replacing Wesley, soon people move on.
It is good to know that in organisational terms we are not irreplaceable. No person should be bigger than an organisation and especially a church.
But we are not simply cogs in a machine, or electrical components in the innards of a car's engine. Our fingerprints, retina and DNA point to a deeper uniqueness; we are individual human beings who leave our imprint indelibly, for good or ill, on the hearts and minds of the people we encounter and on the heart of God... There can never be another you or me...