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March 18, 2009

My ministry has been in many different parishes, and indeed in many different countries. From ordination in Scotland, I have worked in England, Turkey, Sweden, Gibraltar, Italy, and now the USA. What I find I value most in all these travels are the friends I made in each place.

Of course I have had wonderful opportunities to pursue my studies in different fields, the chance not only to visit but to live for months at a time in ( just to name some of the best known) Istanbul, Stockholm, Milan, Lake Como, Edinburgh, Inverness, Salisbury. I have been Provost of Inverness Cathedral, Dean of Gibraltar, Archdeacon of Italy, Vicar General of the Diocese in Europe and now Rector of St Clement’s, Philadelphia; and I count myself richly blessed to have had such varied ministries.

But though the places were glamorous and beautiful, and the churches and cathedrals gorgeous, none of these are really of any importance, compared with the friends I made in each of these places.

And surely this is a healthy Christian truth. As Gershwin wrote: (sing it if you can!)

“In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, They’re only made of clay; But our love is here to stay.”

All I value, I learned from friends. In times of distress and difficulty, I kept on going because of friends. What now gives me more happiness than anything else is the love of friends. And recently, one of the most wonderful results of dipping my toe into the 21st century, by opening a page on “Facebook”, is that I am suddenly hearing from many friends with whom I had lost touch.

“What a friend we have in Jesus” says the old hymn. A wonderful truth – but “he who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar” says St John. I reckon my friendship with the invisible Jesus can be best measured by my friendship with visible human beings.

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