Q: Why have you come back to Sheffield?
A: This is our home, and the home of our Order. Wherever we go from here, we would envisage returning to here. It is a point-of-reference - geographically, relationally, spiritually...
Q: What was the time in Australia about?
A: I think there are layers to the answer to this question that will only become visible to us with the erosion of time. But I think we can make a partial answer, as the trip related to people we met there, and as it related to us.
I do believe that God led us to Perth, and that it was His timing. For example, once there we were able to hook up with one church we had no previous links with but whose leaders had been watching St Thomas' for about six months; and we arrived on the scene at a point where they were making big decisions about their future and were able to meet with us - as people who had been very involved in one of the models they were looking at - in person to ask questions and get a better feel for what they were looking at. That was probably the most timing-specific event, and completely unplanned by us or by them. It was also great to meet up with some people who were interested in The Order of Mission, and/or LifeShapes; again, the face-to-face dynamic is much better than written words alone.
For me, it was great to meet with some people I'd first 'met' through the bloggosphere; for both of us, probably a good thing to take a break from leading after having been leaders-of-leaders for over seven years; for all four of us, great to spend a lot of time hanging-out together before our children started the school years. But none of that really merits selling our house! I think the biggest part of what God was doing in us was changing the nature of our relationship with Sheffield/St Thomas'/the Order: severing some ties (such as being on the staff team at St Tom's); loosening others; tightening still others. I think it was important to be able to differentiate between St Thomas' and the Order (which are not one-and-the-same thing but overlap a lot when you are on the staff at St Tom's); and that it would have been harder to do that if I'd left work but we'd stayed in Sheffield, or even kept and rented-out our house.
Q: How long are you back in Sheffield for?
A: The short answer is, we don't know. But, as far as we can tell, we'd hazard a guess at eighteen months. At that point, Susannah will have completed infants' school, and Noah will be about to start school; so, it would be the next obvious window of opportunity. There are a couple of other factors that also tie-in, but I'll save those for future posts.
God has been really good to us since getting back:
- we've been able to rent a lovely house (we move on Wednesday), which exactly meets our requirements (unfurnished, but with all the kitchen white-goods included; we stored most of our furniture, but sold or gave away our kitchen appliances), and is just a few doors down from some friends of ours.
- the pub at the end of our old road, which was a very violent place, applied for and was granted an extension until 3am every night just after we sold up!
- there was a place for Susannah in the catchment school for the house we will be living in, which has a much better reputation than the catchment school she would have attended before (we would not have sent her out of catchment); and several of her friends are there to (whereas none of the children she was at nursery school would have gone on to the school she would have attended with her).
- there was a place for Noah at the usually over-booked nursery at the end of the road we will be living on.
- although I am looking for work, it has actually been a blessing that I haven't got a job at the moment, and won't have one until after we have settled into a space of our own again.
Anyway, I hope that answers some of the questions people have been asking. More to follow as things unfold...