This cannot be anything but a personal story. Sorry - I'll try not to make it too personal! All this disturbance and uncertainty came in the midst of sudden bereavement and illness. Just before I began my ministry the whole Quicke family had celebrated my father's retirement to a village just outside Cambridge. It was the first time we had spent Christmas Day together because pastoral duties were impossible (with both father and brother Baptist ministers). Christmas Day 1979 was joyful togetherness like never before. Our two boys blossomed with their grandmother. At the church service we all sang the Cowboy Carol with my Dad accompanying on his piano accordion. Its chorus rang out: 'There'll be a new world beginning from tonight...'
Very early the next day, while it was still dark my 57 year old mother fell down the stairs and so damaged her brain that four days later we agreed to switch off life-support. I went into the hospital alone to oversee that final farewell. She had been so close to me in my spiritual life - like a Spiritual Director who knew me through and through. I prayed and committed her to the Lord and though she and I knew the Easter Lord I also knew such desolation as I was ushered out, only to have her wheeled past me by the transplant team even as a sympathetic nurse was talking to me. I wanted to shout out to everyone: 'That's not just a body! She's is one of the best people I have ever known...she's the greatest!' Of course, I didn't....but fighting back tears I throttled deep pain, made funeral arrangements, gave a tribute, and tried to get on with new ministry just round the corner.
Throttling deep pain is not good practice. Within a few weeks of beginning ministry I was hit by serious illness for the first time. Hepatitis knocked me out for six weeks. Our doctor, who became a good friend, said this was the result of the shock of my bereavement. You can imagine as the new minister, who so much wanted to prove himself, how much I hated this public weakness at just the wrong time. Yet it was only the beginning of a long learning curve!