Letters From Brian, Our previous Minister
Recent copies of the letters from our previous Minister Brian. These are reproduced from the monthly Newsletter..
January 2023: From the Minister's Penultimate Letter from Sidmouth
and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
This has been easy through most of the time and privilege of being here. It helped that I studied seaside ministry from college on placement, I had been a pastoral assistant and I felt called and appointed to this work. I was humbled by the reappointments that I was given
My diary doesn’t really have many observations until recent times. I want to share some experiences and humour.
Hospital visiting. They never really address visiting or pastoral care at college; today, fewer church workers seem to have a taste for it. It is much appreciated and it may be the last time you see a member of the congregation. But it’s not all gloom. I visited the Royal Devon and Exeter in my previous appointment so I knew the ropes and the floorplan. I also knew the location of patients could take a while to get on the computer so a cheery hello at the Porters office could often be the quick cure for a wasted visit. Some members were not always in a good mood. I had word that one person, who was very placid, was not the person of old and would demand to be taken home. She was older than me by a couple of decades so I went on the motorbike confident that would ward off a request for a clergy UBER. On arrival the patient was a very different person to the one I was used to so when I explained that a pillion ride would not be their cup of tea, I was told, in the tone of a senior military officer, ‘Well go home and get your car!!’ The patient recovered and had no memory of the visits or conversation. It’s something to bear in mind. While in the North Devon’s Churches I went to Plymouth to visited a man who had had a stroke. He seemed fine but the family were not too pleased. ‘I had not been to see him’. I corrected them and ended up describing the view from his window and the gender of the lifts, which had just started talking. Finally I checked the waste bin and found the parking ticket for the visit from North Devon (farmers could be hard to please)
Of course some members have been in very high spirits over the years. I went to see the wonderful Will Webb who was a very tall and rather deaf former police officer. The staff on the desk said I could see him but the lady from housekeeping was on the prowl and I was on my own if she came calling. They told me to keep the noise down and draw the curtain round. Will’s exuberance and subject matter soon brought the lady to investigate. The staff behind the desk vanished as if the floor had been taken away. She looked at my leathers and I thought ‘All hope is lost’. I can’t remember what she said but I rose and explained myself and the word Methodist silenced her, she then announce that she was a Methodist and to carry on - ‘it’s good to see the clergy visiting patients’. The staff enquired how we had survived. I told them and added it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
A Window on the High Street
Not long after the Foyer was completed we started using displays for remembrance; sea Sunday; Christmas etc. Floral displays and artwork draws quite a crowd and the Christmas manger is poured over by children and parents alike. We made use of this ‘shop front’ to display a cross made out of the previous Christmas tree at Easter. It, like many others, had nails and the crown of thorns included. A few days later I got a call from someone not best pleased with the display. She found it distasteful and wanted it taken down. I explained why it was there - the message of Easter. We talked for about forty minutes and at the end of it she said. ‘Are you going to remove’ it?’ After a few moments I replied ’it seems to be doing its job, if it was not there you and I would not have had this conversation’. She agreed!
Since Covid, the Foyer has been locked in the week and it’s missed by a number of people. All the other churches in town centre are open again and I hope Church Council will address the matter. It does need volunteers to open and close but even if it’s a few days a week, it would help. Several members are here because they came into pray. Last year a person came along on the anniversary of their spouse’s death. Finance and Property had just finished a meeting and were going out the front door. It meant everything to have access to the church for a prayer. A lot of other people come for the same reason.
Folk Week Lost and Found.
When I was first here the church and All Saints were not really involved with the Sidmouth Folk festival but that has changed over the years and that’s grand, but as with all letting and events, people will leave their phones, etc. lying around; and every year we get a couple of phone calls asking not only for a search of the premises, but delivery of the item, or at least the opening of the premises, so they can skip in and collect. I hope you won’t judge me too harshly but when the clock is reading 12.30 am it’s not really at the top of my ‘must do’ list. After enquiring if sibling labour was expected or they are named for panic buttons, I book them in for a civil time the next day and said goodnight.
Later, Folk Week, I was told, had two couriers for that year - to collect lost property at the end of the day’s events. It was delivered to a 24 hour base. So when I got a late night call (possibly from the same culprit as previous years) I told her where go to get her phone. This call was later than the others at 1.40am. Imagine our joy when she called again to thank me at 2.20am to say she was reunited with her phone. Bless.
When that phone rings you never know what is waiting. Be it pastoral, civic, lettings or the three circuits that have existed over the time here it has never been dull.
and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
This verse is a good bench mark for any Minister and I have tried to keep it mind. I have not always managed chapter and verse every week (no one can) but I have tried to preach in season. I have tried to bear in mind the Congregation here which has been, and is, made up of so many wonderful individuals with great experience. It has been such a privilege to walk with you and serve for so many years.
In my final letter I will identify the things that have changed in the town over the years, and a significant change in sociology that has affected us.
Best wishes Brian, Sara and Family
From Our Previous Minister, Brian
My diary doesn’t really have many observations until recent times.