09 July 2013

A difficult goodbye

I've mentioned before that part of my responsibilities at Fortwilliam and Macrory include the monthly FortMac newsletter. Last month, my final issue, it was my turn to write the opinion piece. I used that opportunity to write a letter of thanks to the congregation, which I share with you now below (edited slightly to remove last names).

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I don’t know how many times I've sat down to write this piece. A dozen? But each time I find that I can’t quite find the words to say. What wisdom can I impart that I haven’t first learned from each of you? 

It’s a little strange, saying goodbye a month before I actually go—but I suppose I’ll welcome this opportunity, so that you can have the next few weeks to tell me I’m full of it for what I’m about to say. I've learned so much here. I came to Belfast to be challenged, to experience something different from my life in Louisville, and then was surprised when it happened—there were times that I was definitely challenged!

I suppose the first thing I learned was to relax. As many of you may have discovered over this year, I have a tendency to obsess over details… but guess what? I’m not perfect! This year your kindness has given me the room to try new things, and the grace to brush myself off when I inevitably fall on my face.

Silly boys at BB
Another thing I learned was to listen. I've come to Belfast to learn about Northern Ireland, about the lives that you lead and the things that affect your reality. In many ways, the struggles are the same here as at home, but being in a different environment has allowed me to see things with a different perspective.

Will I ever understand everything that it means to be from Belfast? Of course not. But I've had a great opportunity this year to listen to your experiences, and I thank all those who have invited me in to their lives: particularly to Ann and Roy for introducing me to the North Coast; Sylvia and Roy, Pat / Michele / Siobhan's clan, Daphne and Billy for sharing meals with me; the Young Adult Group for some good craic each month; Stewart, Norma and Pamela for looking out for me at the Boys’ Brigade (and for numerous lifts to Macrory Halls!); the staff team and volunteers that welcomed me as one of their own; and my faithful Bible study group that has been particularly special during my year here: Ann, Heather, Helene, Muriel and Veronica.

Part of the family for Christmas
I have learned something from each and every one of you… and even if your name was not mentioned, please know that I have truly appreciated being a part of your congregational life this year.

I leave Belfast in a few short weeks (has it really gone so quickly?!?) and with me I take a fondness for Tunnocks Tea Cakes, a vastly expanded vocabulary, and numerous photographs and reminders of my time here. More importantly, however, I take a personal strength I never knew before.

Our last week of Bible study
Coming here, away from family and friends, has been difficult, but it has also given me the self-confidence to stand up for myself and to know that I’m capable of mastering whatever life throws my way. I still don’t know where the next stage will take me, but I go forward from this place, secure in the fact that I will have this community keeping me in their hearts and prayers from the other side of the ocean.

I leave you for now with the words of a prayer that is shared with each YAV as they prepare for their year of service. I find that it is still as applicable for me today as it was over a year ago, when I learned I would be spending this time with you. You might consider cutting it out with the picture and bio of Sarah to keep her in your prayers as she prepares for her time in Northern Ireland!

With all my love,
Tricia

MY LORD GOD, 

I have no idea where I am going. 

I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude” 
© Abbey of Gethsemani 

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