Saturday, 19 June 2010

Saying Farewell

During my ministry I served as minister to three parishes. This meant that I also left three parishes to move to places new. I always found the time of leaving a moving experience, no pun intended. There was a kind of tradition in the Church of Scotland that there was a farewell gathering when stories were told and gifts given. I always left these events full of emotion. It was hard to listen to all the things people said about your ministry.

My friend used to tell the story of his leaving a church to move to another. He said that if he had known they all loved him so much he would not have moved. The point he was making was that we should be more open with the praise and the criticism might not matter. How true he was. It is much easier to criticise than it is to offer praise, so it would seem.

I always moved on with a feeling of some sadness but looking forward to the challenge of pastures new. I also feel some sense of pride, I hope not foolish pride, in the fact that each of the churches I left at a later date invited me to return.

There is a true story about one such leaving, not of me but of the local priest in the Roman Catholic Church. After twenty-five years in the same parish, the priest was saying his farewells at his retirement dinner. An eminent member of the congregation - a leading politician - had been asked to make a presentation and a short speech, but was late arriving.

So the priest took it upon himself to fill the time, and stood up to the microphone:

"I remember the first confession I heard here twenty-five years ago and it worried me as to what sort of place I'd come to... That first confession remains the worst I've ever heard. The chap confessed that he'd stolen a TV set from a neighbour and lied to the police when questioned, successfully blaming it on a local scallywag. He said that he'd stolen money from his parents and from his employer; that he'd had affairs with several of his friends' wives; that he'd taken hard drugs, and had slept with his sister and given her VD. You can imagine what I thought... However I'm pleased to say that as the days passed I soon realised that this sad fellow was a frightful exception and that this parish was indeed a wonderful place full of kind and decent people..."

At this point the politician arrived and apologised for being late, and keen to take the stage, he immediately stepped up to the microphone and pulled his speech from his pocket:

"I'll always remember when Father Murphy first came to our parish," said the politician, "In fact, I'm pretty certain that I was the first person in the parish that he heard in confession."

There you go then what more can I say. Praise where it is due and punctuality two good things to remember.

Have a great weekend.

This blog is linked to my other. Emotions


  1. The more the moves, the more the learning experiences, isnt it? Enjoyed the story.

  2. Teehee!!! You know what they say about karma! LOLOL

  3. Your stories are so funny. I've retold a few of them to my family, and we all enjoy them. (My daughter didn't like the old lady's hair story, though, she said it was, "gross") They are funny stories, yet they teach a valuable lesson. Thanks so much, Ralph.

  4. Thanks for the laugh!!

  5. that will teach him to be late lol..great story, Ralph. Let me take this moment to compliment YOU on the exceptional job you do with this blog. You keep us all thinking and learning and you do it with panache.

  6. Such a funny story! I am always very bad at saying goodbye. Even on the telephone. My Mother and I are forever repeating Goodbye when we call each other. Neither wants to hang up on the other. xx