The Very Rev Andrew Norton officially resigned from ministry last Saturday at the regular meeting of the full Northern Presbytery. He spoke of his passion for the church and his struggle to let this part of his life go but of a growing realisation that this was what was required of him at this stage of his life. As was so often the case with Andrew it was through poetry that God had spoken to him and, as usual, through him to us. I have seldom met a man more passionate about the Church and more committed to Christ. But this man always came with the uncomfortable Presence of God.
Scott Peck was a psychologist who found God while resting from a writing assignment in a convent. The discovery completely turned his life around and for the next 20 or so years he gave himself to writing about the confluence of psychology and faith. In his ground breaking publication ‘The Road Less Traveled’ which was an anthology of love from a psychological perspective Peck wrote this…
“Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a PROFOUND tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there.”
The Church is no exception but what I found with Andrew was that his ministry to us as a people prone to self-deception was precisely a corrective – Andrew spoke the truth to a people so often unprepared to accept it.
We are still in that place unfortunately – we are still offering old wine skins to new wine and the risk of losing it all is still great.
I want to honour this man who has literally bled for the Church because he and his family, especially his wife Sue, have suffered greatly over the last 18 months as illness forced him to lay aside a unique call to lead the Church for a second term as Moderator. Few if any other person have inspired such confidence that they have been nominated a second time to this position. Andrew did. The truth He spoke was intoxicating and yet hugely releasing. It gave all of us a sense of hope; a glimpse of a remarkable future and a desire to travel again with the Church.
Andrew was incredibly kind and helpful toward me as I traveled the road to Moderatorship. He included me in so much of what he was doing and thinking and I felt tremendously thankful for this. I helped me form a much better idea of how to handle the position.
None of us have any idea of how much the recovery from his illness cost Andrew but I can tell you that theSpirit of God was still shining brightly in him as he laid down the reigns of both St Columba’s Church and ministry at that Presbytery meeting. His final speech produced again a ‘thin place’ where the Presence of God was palpable.
We will miss you Andrew but we are so much the better for your leadership. May your journey be sweet and…
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.