The Minister writes

(This was the last Minister's Letter written by the Rev. Andrew Kleissner before he moved to a new post in March 2017).

“Crazy – or what?”

It seems absolutely bonkers to be moving to a new Pastorate at the age of 63. Yes, I know that I would be far too young to be considered as a candidate for the Papacy; and that both President Trump and Hillary Clinton were around 70 years old at the time of the recent Inauguration. Nevertheless many people have expressed surprise at our forthcoming move, implying that I should have been gently running myself down before retirement.

Well, we live in a world that does often seem to value youth over experience; this sadly means that people who leave a job in their 50s frequently have real difficulty in finding further employment. I honestly suspected that the same would be true for me, for (as our Deacons were recently told) there are more Baptist ministers seeking pastorates than vacancies needing to be filled. Many churches seem to think that the ideal person to be their next Minister is an energetic man or woman in their 30s.

In fact I have been “hoist by my own petard” – in other words, God has challenged me through my own preaching! For I have more than once said that we Christians should be pilgrim people, modelling ourselves on Abraham who was called by God at the age of 75 to leave his home and travel to an unknown country. Much to his surprise he was told that he would be the “father of a great nation” although he had no children and his wife was far beyond child-bearing age. Is it too daring for Moira and me to claim a similar promise of reaping a spiritual harvest as we settle in Cardiff?

The decision to move has not been easy. Although many of you will know the frustrations I have felt in my work at Christ Church, I have struggled with the call to a church set in an environment very different to what I am used to. Moira and I have grown to love Suffolk; it took me several years to “get London out of my system” and now we will be returning to city life. The contrast between my internal tussles and the ease of the settlement process was so great that I asked God to “throw a spanner in the works” if we were making a huge mistake – a spanner which never arrived!

Obviously I don’t know how long my concluding ministry will last: I can think of at least two local ministers who moved in their 60s and have managed at least 8 further years of service. I trust that the lack of youthful dynamism (not that I ever had much of that in the first place!) will be more than balanced by the experience which I have amassed. After more than 30 years in Christian ministry I’ve probably encountered the majority of difficult situations that can crop up in churches – which doesn’t mean that I always know how to resolve them!

And so we say, “Farewell”, and take this final step of faith. Of course, that’s something which Moira and I have done before, when we followed God’s leading to Africa. But what is easy when one is young becomes more difficult as life goes on, not least because of the sheer amount of “stuff” that one collects over the years! Yet I still believe that a willingness to move on is fundamental to the Christian life and that Jesus’ example is always before us. For he was prepared to leave his eternal home in heaven to live – and die – among us.

That was the ultimate journey of faith; we do our best to hobble along in his footprints.

With best wishes,

   Andrew's signature