It's goodbye from me as I step down as Bishop of Lynn

The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Transitions are strange – laying one thing down and picking another up.

I’ve done that a number of times through 45 years of full-time ministry, but now I find myself laying one thing down and not knowing exactly what I’m going to be picking up.

As of a week ago, I am no longer Bishop of Lynn. We clergy will all go through this: stepping down from a particular role in the community, knowing (hoping) that there will be some kind of ministry ahead of us but with no clear idea of what it might be.

Most of us will move away from the place where we ministered, so as to give our successors some space, and of course that makes goodbyes harder. Rebecca and I weren’t looking forward to ours – not least because there have been none of the goodbye parties we hoped for, and there was virtually no one physically present at the Farewell Service in the Cathedral on January 24

But we were gloriously surprised. We discovered afterwards that over 1,400 computer devices had logged on to the streamed-out service on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel - and that number more than doubled in the week following.

It was very heart-warming, and the cathedral staff, together with the Dean, the Bishop of Norwich and the Precentor (the Canon responsible for planning and organising services), had done a fabulous job of putting together as good a service as they possibly could in these difficult days. They were double starred in my Thanksgiving Diary that night (yes, it’s still going).

A number of people have said since that, the question they were all asking was “would the Rocking Bishop sing in his Farewell Sermon?” Well, when I saw that the nearest person to me was a good six or seven metres away from the pulpit, I couldn’t resist, of course.

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And anyway, the song exactly fitted the message – it is all going to be all right. God desires our good and, in the end, all will be well.

Do you remember that scene from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film when that wonderfully optimistic manager looks earnestly at the exasperated guest and says: “In the end, all will be well; and if it is not well yet, that just means it’s not yet the end?"

Over the years since the Rocking Bishop produced a CD to raise money for the Norfolk Hospice at Tapping House, I have done the occasional Rocking Bishop ‘gig’. One of the regular delights has been that moment when someone says afterwards, “I had no idea that was coming”.

For some people at least, seeing someone in the church do something that surprises them, can help them see God in unexpected places always.

It is usually those special people who can reveal something of God when we don’t expect it. The Thursday evening One Show always spotlights one particular extraordinary person – usually with no idea that Alex Jones’ big screen is just around the corner.

Sometimes though I find it’s a song. Probably without the songwriter realising it, a single lyric can plumb the depths of God’s nature and relationship with us. Love Is All Around, for instance, as the film Love Actually (…. is all around) made very clear.

But to me the song that does that like no other ordinary love song is Barry Gibb’s Words. That first line: “Smile an everlasting smile, a smile can bring you near to me,” is just exactly what God has been singing to us from the beginning of time. Virtually every line from then on has resonance with Christian theology right up to the final: “Words are all I have to take your heart away.”

For Christians, the ultimate Word is Jesus, God’s gift of himself to the world to bring back the smile to our faces and take our hearts away.

Rebecca and I leave something of our hearts here in Norfolk as we leave, and we thank you all for the many surprising ways you have shown us something of the Love of God. We pray that love will sustain you through the rest of this pandemic and beyond.

Jonathan Meyrick, former Bishop of Lynn and still The Rocking Bishop