By John Ellis
Charles Dickens has David Copperfield moving from Suffolk to Kent. This provided an intriguing opening to the Charge to Minister and Church at the induction of the Revd Andrew Royal as minister of Maidstone United Reformed Church in Kent and as ecumenical officer for the URC Synod Area. The perceptive and pertinent Charge was preached by Mr William Glasse, Pastoral Advocate of the East Suffolk Area Partnership. The Induction was thereby unusual in having a lay person rather than a minister preach: itself an admirable symbol of the robust and distinctive nature of the Congregational tradition in Suffolk within which, with the help of The Boys’ Brigade, Andrew’s own Christian journey has been shaped.
Amongst others participating in the service was Kent’s Ecumenical Officer, the Revd Harvey Richardson, a Methodist minister who has always been a good friend to the United Reformed Church. It was a reminder that the vacancy at Maidstone has lasted a long five years, not least because of detailed explorations of the possibility of union with a nearby Methodist Church, also in the town centre. Perhaps at some points in that story some other Dickensian characters came to mind, but in the end it was not to be.
So Suffolk and Kent united in actual and metaphorical sunshine for a celebration of a new start for minister and congregation. It was a pleasure to take part. But all knew the real test will be keeping the joy and hope just as evident when the sun does not shine so brightly.