It is never easy to say goodbye, and to move on, even when it is necessary, and when what you're moving on to is going to be really good. But such is life.
For a reason which I don't need to go into here, I'm stepping down from my role as Secretary of the Unitarian Association for Lay Ministry, which I've held for the past six years. That November evening in 2008, a few members of the nearly defunct Unitarian Association of Lay Leaders met at Great Hucklow, determined to keep the association going. Because we knew how important it was for lay worship leaders to have someone they could turn to, for advice and support.
At that AGM in 2008, it was decided that a name change was required, to reflect the Association's broadening remit. Our new name, Unitarian Association for Lay Ministry, was chosen to indicate that we see our principal role as that of supporting lay ministry in all its forms, not just those with pastoral oversight for a congregation.
The six years since then have been an exciting and enriching experience for all concerned. Membership has nearly trebled to over 60, and as David Monk wrote on the History page of our website "We communicate with each other, support each other, learn from each other, and continually pull together in seeking to achieve our objectives." We have also been consulted about changes affecting lay worship leaders and congregational leaders, and have made the views of our members known. We have a good website and a twice-yearly newsletter. Our annual conference usually attracts about 25 folk, and our close links with the Worship Studies Course ensure that we remain fresh and up-to-date.
So it's going to be hard to walk away, and let other folk step in. I am so very proud of what the Association has accomplished in the last six years, and confident that it will go on from strength to strength, as more and more trained worship leaders from the Worship Studies Course Foundation Step join us.
As Tim Radford wrote in The Guardian in 2005, "In a here-today, gone-tomorrow world, there is a certain satisfaction in having existed at all. The exuberant joy of being is tempered by the wistful knowledge that nothing is forever. The Romans had a phrase for it: ave atque vale, hail and farewell. ... Parting, neuropsychologists say, is a stretching of emotional bonds: the sorrow is tinged with the sweetness of the memories."
And so I have found. And so I feel now. Ave atque vale indeed.