Some three months after moving across the country, I have a number of regrets.
I do not mean that I regret coming here, to Sunderland, to the post of Minster Priest of Sunderland Minster.
What I mean is this: that change is not possible without loss, and loss is not possible without regret.
A couple of weeks ago we received the news that a member of our former church family at St Peter’s had died suddenly. He had lived for a number of years hiding a serious medical condition, perhaps as much from himself as from anyone else, and the emotional effort this required meant that he was at times a difficult character to love. And yet he was, in his own way, an incredibly faithful and loving friend. He came to tend our garden every week, many times bringing us vegetables from his own allotment. He introduced my children to planting potatoes. Along with several others, he came over to Sunderland to be with us at my licensing. He sent a Christmas card. After his death, it transpired that he spoke of our family often to his parents, whom we never met.
I regret that, having moved away, we were no longer a regular part of Paul’s life, and he of ours. I don’t feel guilt, but I do have regret. I regret that I can no longer meet up with another friend for a coffee in the Village. Or that I can no longer walk through the Dunes on a sharp morning when the sand is crusted with a layer of thick frost. Or a hundred little things and any number of bigger ones besides.
But of course if we had not moved, bringing to an end certain things and closing off the opportunity for still others, then none of the opportunities here in Sunderland would have been possible.
The point is this: change is not possible without loss, and loss is not possible without regret. So when someone claims to have no regrets, then either they are lying – to themselves as much as anyone – or they have never taken any risk, which would be truly regretful.
Regret is inevitable. The secret is not to let the inevitability of regret rob you of the gift of life.