Well, it’s that time again so here is our
end of term report Christmas letter. Forgive the round-robin approach but there is some news we need to pass on to quite a few people … though it’s not as precise as we would have hoped!
On the move…
We are in the final year of Gareth’s appointment to Romsey and the edge of the New Forest as a Methodist minister. This time next year he will be retired. As ever, Methodism has a quaint way of putting it: he will “sit down”.
That will be the end of eight years here in Romsey and 24 as a minister. It will also be 50 years since he started work, as a young trainee reporter in Pontypool.
It will be the first time that life hasn’t been ruled by an appointments diary and what journalists used to call working unsocial hours – though Joy has plenty of plans for how we fill our time!
Certainly, we will continue to make regular trips to the Netherlands, where Andrew is, and we plan a return trip to Nashville. Apparently, Joy has designs on more cruising!
We both want to develop some hobbies and leisure activities: joining a county cricket club, getting a rugby season ticket, relaxing in the countryside and at the coast.
… but where will we be?
We haven’t owned our own home since coming into the itinerant ministry and are in negotiations with the Methodist Ministers Housing Society, which owns houses for retired clergy to live in at a subsidised rent. Those conversations have been fairly fraught; our favoured areas of Cornwall and South Wales having no MMHS places free.
It means we can’t give you an address yet – or even a location – but are trusting God for the right place by next Summer when we need to move.
We know that it will be a distance away from our children and grandchildren, but we aim for it to be big enough and near enough for holidays and long weekends. Please pray for a resolution early in 2023.
Our children and five grandchildren are a huge delight, and we see most of them a number of times each week.
Siân and Damien are in Chandler’s Ford with Cerys (10) and Joshua (8). Outside school and work, they are involved in rugby (Damien coaches and the children both play); music, including flute and cornet lessons for the children; church, where Sian plays in the worship band; Girls and Boys Brigades; swimming and much more. Cerys is a budding actor and has already been in stage productions of Little Shop of Horrors, Shrek and Cats.
Andrew is living in the Netherlands and working for a major fashion logistics company. He comes home as often as he can and last summer, we had the great joy of taking his three children – Rhys (18), Matthew (14) and Bethany (8) to stay with him and explore a new country, which they loved.
Rose is just up the road from us and teaching in a primary school in Andover. Matthew and Bethany live with her and Rhys is in his first year studying Theology at Cardiff University. He plays rugby for one of the uni teams and is in regular demand for Romsey RFC’s first team. Matthew is a star goalkeeper for a local under-15s team who are top of their league. Bethany has also caught the acting bug and is in Cats alongside Cerys.
Both our dads are in their 90s now but still living independently. Joy’s dad Irving (below) is in Okehampton, still preaching at 92 and riding his (electric) bike most Saturdays.
Gareth’s dad Les has been unwell this year but was able to invite family to celebrate his 90th birthday in April and many of us then went with him in June to mark his sister Audrey’s 100th (they are pictured below). That was a great reunion for the wider family. Both Irving and Les have been able to come and spend some time in Romsey this year.
Our year …
We are beginning to experience a series of ‘lasts.’ This is our last Christmas where the diary is governed by multiple carol services and Sunday appointments. Joy is in her last year as a Girls Brigade officer. In the Spring, Gareth will chair his last Church Council meetings and prepare to hand on responsibilities to other people.
We ended up staying for an extra year here in Romsey because the local network of Methodist churches (the circuit) was going to be in a sticky situation with staffing. It means that retirement is a year later than planned but we are confident God’s in control of this.
Gareth’s favourite TV show is The West Wing, a fictional programme charting the US White House under President Jed Bartlet. His favourite question is: “what’s next?” That’s just what we are wondering too!
A sad end to the year …
The year has ended on a sad note for us. After 16 years of love and devotion, we had to take our Golden Retriever Jake to the vets to be put to sleep. His sight and balance had both made his life difficult but he had given great joy to the whole family: four of our grandchildren have only known the family with Jake in it. He will be a great loss.
Christmas blessings …
We pray that you have a blessed time this Christmas and are able to hear the angels’ song in your own hearts and lives: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ (Luke 2: 14) With blessings for Christmas and 2023,