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“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
So wrote TS Eliot in his poem ‘Little Gidding’, one of his Four Quartets. I was reminded of this as I wearily packed the contents of my house into boxes, ready for the move to my new post at Bristol Cathedral next month. Ends and beginnings: this time of the year is full of them. It is a time for the holiday period to come to a close and a time for youngsters to prepare to return to their studies; it is a time for people to move house or begin new jobs and a time for marking the end of one phase of life and the inauguration of another. “In my beginning is my end”, said Eliot.
We are used to endings having a certain sense of finality about them; but beginnings are very similar, for to begin something often requires the conclusion of something else, and there is frequently a sense of bereavement attached to the process. The excitement of moving to another part of the country, for example, necessarily entails the loss of the familiar old way of life. It can be difficult to ‘move on’ and leave friends, colleagues, and communities behind. There will always be a thread that tries to pull us back, no matter how frayed, and there will always be reminders of what we’ve had to give up.
As I prepare to leave Wakefield Cathedral this weekend I am reflecting, with thanksgiving, on all the friendships I’ve made and the many activities, social occasions and services I’ve had the privilege to be part of. I came for a six-week placement back in March and ended up staying for six months: it’s been wonderful, and my leaving is tinged with sadness. But it’s time to move on. And when I arrive in Bristol and become caught up in exploring new places and new faces I shall be able to look back, fondly, at my time among you all and appreciate it anew. Or, to paraphrase Eliot’s words, the end of all my exploring will be to arrive where I started and know Wakefield Cathedral for the first time.
For those of you similarly preparing for new experiences or ventures I pray that you may also know the quiet joy of finding beginnings in endings and learn to appreciate afresh your starting place. And may God be with you in your comings-in and your goings-out both now and in the future.
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