From the pen of Reader Ros in Istanbul!
Greetings from Istanbul. 1 November, All Saints day, marked exactly one year since I left Yorkshire for a 6 week trial period here in Istanbul. I then returned to UK, packed up my home and in January 2014 returned for a longer period of time.
As I reflect on this year and look forward I am reminded that age-wise I am in the ‘final stretch’. I have a reasonable amount of energy and I am in good health. I want these last years here to be useful, enjoyable and faithful to the Lord. These words, and others, from the New Testament have informed my thinking:
…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and
perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross …
and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
In these verses the Christian life is likened to a race. Those of us who are senior citizens are in the latter stages, the final stretch of that race. Athletes know the importance of having some reserves for the final stretch – that is the part of the race when the athlete needs people who will cheer them on, encourage them to keep going even though they are feeling dead beat. I am not sure how long my final stretch will be – I am willing to stay here as long as it is clear that God is calling me to stay. I know that for my final stretch to be effective I not only need to be clearly following my vocation but also need people who will share with me in my journey here by reading my newsletters, praying and supporting me.
During this year I have been re-licensed as a reader, finished an MA in Literature and Spirituality, rented my own apartment, partly furnished my new home and started to settle back in to life here in Istanbul. I have also been selected to be ordained and that will take place in Istanbul on 23 April 2015.
I am returning as a retiree, with no full-time job. I am seeking to establish a life here as a retiree who also has opportunities to minister as a Lay Reader (and soon as a curate!) and continue some longstanding friendships with people I have known for many decades. I am fortunate to have links to my former students that I taught in the 70’s. They are now women in their 50’s who I meet up with from time to time. 25 November is Teachers Day in Turkey and I and other former colleagues have been invited to dinner at the English High School Alumni club.
Retiring from teaching in summer 2013 was a deliberate choice as I could have continued on, however, I felt the time had come to return to Istanbul and follow
my sense of call and vocation to be part of the church here. I believe that God always has a plan and purpose for us and it is important to pray and discern that vocation whatever our work or stage in life. We are called to incarnate the presence of God within the world so we need to be clear about how and where that is to be done! It is not always easy to discern what is our calling and vocation, but worth spending time doing so.
The process of discernment doesn’t finish by establishing what our calling is but continues as we work out that calling in the very real context of everyday life. This is a process that I am learning to do on a daily basis. I have committed to spending 2 days a week plus weekends doing church related work and activities – that also includes admin work as I help oversee a project to translate our Common Worship into Turkish.
The other days of the week I try to set aside time to read, to exercise and to have fun! Some weeks my life is more lop-sided than balanced!
On Sunday 16 November I took part in a Fun Walk over the Bosphorous Bridge that was part of the annual Istanbul Marathon activities. So in the weeks preceding that event I had done extra walking to ensure that I could cope with the 8Km course. A few others from my congregation ran or walked. Next year I hope to run in the 10Km race. Watch this space!
In Istanbul we are looking forward to celebrating Christ the King on Sunday and then to enter Advent and the run up to Christmas. We will have a Carol Service on 14th December and celebrate Christ’s Birth on Christmas Eve. We will celebrate the New Year on Friday 2 January with an evening communion service that will serve as an opportunity to make a fresh commitment to the Lord at the beginning of 2015. Christmas here is very different – without the commercialism of UK which means that Christmas can almost pall into insignificance as those who celebrate Christmas are such a small minority. However, it is an opportunity to intentionally celebrate Christmas in a less commercialised way. Many Turkish people are curious about Christmas and over the years I have found it a good time to invite friends to partake of British Christmas cake, mince pies etc and to offer an explanation of the Christmas story.
Looking forward to the coming of Christ, his birth and incarnation are exhilarating and challenging times for all of us. I trust that despite the familiarity of these events and the busyness of the season you will have a fresh understanding that is a stimulus to your life and worship.
Every good wish to you and your families,
Reader Ros in Istanbul!