It is five years ago tonight that I stood at the lectern of my parish church at the end of the midnight Communion service and announced that I would be leaving them. It was a numbing experience that has almost gone from my memory. Flicking back through the archives, I found a piece written at six o’clock on Christmas Eve 2009 that went live at eleven o’clock. I have no recall of writing it:
On what is the most festive night of the year, the heart is full of heaviness.
The eleven years in Dublin have been good times, they have been happy times. They have been years watching our children grow up. They have been years filled with vivid memories and special moments.
Calling, though, is not a matter of happiness; it’s a matter of faithfulness. Katharine has been appointed Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, a city some eighty miles from here, and in the new year preparations will have to begin for a move to a very different home and ministry in the spring.
The move is exciting, new ministry, new opportunities, yet is bittersweet because it means a farewell to a community who have been our best friends. As the people in Kilkenny are told at midnight about an arrival, so, at midnight, I must stand at the microphone and tell my friends at Saint Matthias’ of a departure.
There are numerous verses of Scripture that come to mind, from the calling of Abraham in Genesis to the call to discipleship in Revelation, but the words that resonate most on the last Christmas Eve in Dublin come from a ballad. The song with which the Clancy Brothers would end their concerts has an opening verse that confesses the failures of the past and wishes the erstwhile companions well for the future – The Parting Glass:
Of all the money that e’er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I’ve ever done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
to mem’ry now I can’t recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be to you all.
Joy be to you all, my friends, joy be to you all.
Five years on, there are new friends, new ties, lessons learned. Partings, though, are still recalled with pain.