Assuming the May Magazine is published on 26 April (the last Sunday of the preceding month, as usual at St. Blasius’) it will coincide with my last official day as Priest-in-Charge before I go into final retirement. If all goes according to plan, Marion and I will then move shortly afterwards to the Cathedral City of Lichfield, where we shall be much closer to our two sons and our little grandson. As I said in the March issue, we have greatly enjoyed our time at St. Blasius’ Church and have loved being on the Island, and we are really glad that we came here for the final three-and-a-half years of my ‘active’ ministry. Indeed, we shall be very sorry to leave, and we are going to miss so many people, and so many things about the Church and the Isle of Wight. At the same time, we have always enjoyed the opportunities presented by new places and new situations, and when we settle in Staffordshire it will in fact be the eighth county, seventh diocese, and tenth house in which we have lived since we married 43 years ago!
In pride of place was the very beautiful handmade coloured glass vase from ‘Glory Art Glass’ of Sandown, with an inscription on the base: ‘To Victor & Marion from your friends at St. Blasius’. This will definitely grace our retirement home, and so will the fine framed Antique Print of the Church, which was evidently drawn shortly after the enlargement in the mid-nineteenth century. Next came a lovely silver-plated double photograph frame, and a gift of National Garden Gift Vouchers, complete with a text which gives a new slant to the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden: ‘and on the 7th day the Lord said, “Thou shalt also do gardening”’! And then there was a colourful tea tray, showing a jolly scene in Shanklin Old Village, within the parish. In addition there was a basket of plants for Marion, and a large Greetings Card signed by members of the congregation, and another by members of the Council.
I must also mention that we received some cards and presents from individual members of the congregation, and that four days earlier, at the St. Blasius Primary Academy service in church, I was presented with cards made by the children of every class at the school, which were on display in the Parish Room on Mothering Sunday. Marion and I were deeply touched by all your kindness, and we thank you most warmly. We shall certainly be taking some treasured memories with us when we leave the Island, and we are so glad that we shall have these tangible reminders of your kindness, as well.
May I conclude as I did on Mothering Sunday, with the closing words of my final sermon here:
‘It’s been a particular pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve among the good people of St. Blasius’ who have longed to see this Church move forward and to reach out to the community and the world, and who have been keen to increase their own theological understanding and commitment to the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to evolve structures and forms of worship to enable this to happen. Marion and I pray that your enthusiasm and eagerness will continue to develop and that together you will make this Church of St. Blasius, Bishop and Martyr a ‘beacon’ of the Christian faith in Shanklin and the wider community of the Island. May God bless you all, and thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart.’
My final service at St. Blasius’ was the joyful Mothering Sunday Family Communion on 15 March, and it was lovely to see so many members of the congregation there, as well as some couples that I have married at the church, and it was an honour also to be joined by the Mayor of Shanklin and Richard Priest and a number of other Councillors.
The Intercessions were led by members of the St. Blasius’ Mothers’ Union Branch, with whom Marion has been so closely associated, and there were some children present, too, who together with the whole congregation joined in the Worship Song ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’, complete with actions! At the end of the service there were speeches from the Mayor, on behalf of the town and community, and from Bob Crawley, our Church Treasurer, on behalf of St. Blasius’. We then all crowded into the Parish Room for a glass of wine and a slice of a splendid ‘retirement’ cake. And then came the presents, for which we are indeed truly grateful.