Farewell after 53 years at Chatham

Copied below is the Farewell speech from Murray Smith on 1st July 2018

 

Murray & Karen , pictured before they leave for Hastings

Farewell Speech

The last time I made a speech anything remotely like this one was 53 years ago when I left Wimbledon to take up residence here in Kent and I still remember making a terrible mess of it. This time I am going to stick to some notes in an attempt to retain a little more dignity. Please accept my apologies!
I was speaking with my son Andrew in New Zealand this morning and pointed out that just after I had moved to Kent England won the World Cup. He said he had been looking for a sign!!
Thank you Bev for your very kind words. It is so reassuring and encouraging to know that what God has enabled you to be and do over such a long period has been a means of blessing and of benefit to the Kingdom.
I also want to say a big thank you to all of you who have made the effort to be here this evening whether it is to wish us well or just to make sure we actually leave.
To be serious now, it is very important that I personally express my thanks to everyone who has helped me so much during my time here at Chatham. This includes many who are not here tonight for various reasons. Some have relocated, some have decided to worship elsewhere, some have sadly drifted away from God and others have just plain died. There have been so many people and so many blessings that I have received from them. And I have felt their support as well in all that I have tried to do in the various positions that I have been asked to fill over the years. That support was at its greatest during the difficult years of Verna’s illness and I can never forget the kindnesses shown to us both during that time and afterwards.
Many of you have become wonderful friends and I trust that these friendships will survive the distancing that is about to take place. These friendships are very much valued and I will do my part in trying to ensure that they remain strong.
The overall experience of the last 53 years has been good. Of course there have been some sad bits and some mistakes have been made, but I have felt the presence of God all the way through and I am sure that will continue into the future..
In fact tonight is really about that future. It is true to say that neither Karen nor I ever expected to be where we are today, let alone where we will be in three weeks time. When Karen arrived as our Associate Officer in late July 2015 it had been hinted that she might be here until retirement. God, however, had other ideas and these began to take shape very quickly. Throughout the autumn of that year our friendship was developing as we were able to share each other’s grief concerning our own bereavements. We understood how each other felt because of our own individual, and very personal, experience. God intervened at that time and for a period of several weeks we were bombarded, nothing less, by a particular verse of scripture. It came in our readings, on our phones, on advertising boards, through sermons, on TV and all sorts of other media and after a while it dawned on us that we should be taking notice. It is a well-known verse from Jeremiah 29 (verse 11), with which you are no doubt very familiar. The New International Version says this: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future”. God’s persistence in bringing this to our attention was a major influence in our decision that our future should be together.
So we have two instances of the unexpected already, Karen’s appointment to Chatham in the first place and our coming together as a couple later that year with our marriage taking place a year later (maybe that’s three unexpected events!!). Another surprise was the departure of Majors Nigel and Judy Schultz after only two years at the corps thus throwing Karen’s own position into doubt. Sure enough she was asked if she would accept another appointment and my willingness was sought as well. By this time we had accepted that God was moving in our lives and that he was wanting us to accept a new challenge. However, sending Karen to Hastings Temple as CO was also unexpected. It wasn’t on our list of likely possibilities.
So we go with a certain amount of apprehension and a recognition that this will be a challenge for us both. But we also go in the certainty that it is what God wants of us and that he will be there with us.
I am fully aware that I have a big role to play in this. Secondary, yes, but still a significant one. I see that role as being a total support for this wonderful officer who will speak to you a little later. There are many things that I can do to take some of the weight off her shoulders and thus release her time so that more of it can be spent loving, caring, pastoring and teaching in the way she wishes. I believe God has given her this appointment because her gifting is just that which Hastings Temple corps needs right now, having been un-officered for nearly two years.
The next few years will be a challenge, of that there is no doubt, but we do not fear it.  We will trust in God as we have always done and we know that will be good enough. This challenge is also an exciting prospect and we commend it to your prayerful support.
Yes, I will miss this corps. After 53 years that is unavoidable. But I pray God’s blessing on you all as you go forward, under Major Ian’s leadership, to represent Christ in this area. May you continue with the task of “bringing Christ to people and people to Christ” and be a real influence for good in Medway.

God bless you all.

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