Canon Chris Ivory Retires

The Revd Canon Chris Ivory Retires from Public Minstry

Canon Chris Ivory retired from Public Ministry at the Minster on Sunday 31st May 2020, after 17 years of ministry with us.  We were able to arrange a presentation of gifts to Chris and his partner Christopher and held a celebration via zoom with many messages of thanks for the past we have shared and good wishes for their future.

We wish Chris & Christopher all the very best for their retirement and look forward to welcoming them back for a proper celebration at a later date, but share with you some of the highlights from the day here.

Thank you from Chris & Christopher

Christopher and I want to say a very sincere thank you for the very kind words, huge number of cards and very generous gifts that we have we received as I retire and we both take our leave of you. I can’t describe how much of a privilege and a joy it has been to be with you over the last 17 years and we have far more to thank you all for than ever we have to be thanked for.

You kindly and generously welcomed Aunt Peg, Christopher and me to make our home with you and to share the life of the Church and the town. We have had a great adventure together as part of a team that has always been immensely supportive and encouraging – a succession of curates who have each brought their own special gifts, a number of retired priests have played their parts and been wise guides, and latterly Becca Rogers who, as Team Vicar, is exercising a brilliant ministry in North Lynn. But the team is not just the clergy, many lay people have made an even greater contribution to the life and work of the Church: Liz James and now Kelly Bowen as Parish Administrator, John Jordan and now Adrian Richards as Director of Music, David Moore continuing as Verger, 7 Churchwardens, many PCC members and never forget the numerous people who work very hard in many ways to make possible the life, activity, mission and ministry of the Minster.

Thank you for the generous gifts you gave us to mark our leaving. The very fine high quality headphones which will make it possible for me to indulge my love of organ music without offending the neighbourhood; the garden tokens for Christopher and a very generous cheque for £1,000. It is all far more than we deserve; you are all far too generous. Virtual leave-taking is a strange experience, but we very much look forward to a conventional gathering in October.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the recording of my last service. I think something was included from everyone who sent a contribution, but not everything was used because I ran out of time for knitting it all together. Thank you, also, everyone who was able to join the “Zoom” gathering this morning. Some technophobes made a great effort to join in, but I know that for a good proportion of us it is impossible. It was lovely to see so many faces, and to hear the voices of a few could only make a phone connection, but all who couldn’t join are equally remembered with love and gratitude. We all owe our gratitude to Angela for masterminding, not to say struggling with, the technology to make it all possible!

King's Lynn Minster - 31st May 2020

Farewell Sermon by Canon Chris Ivory on his retirement as Team Rector 

It is one of the ironies of our situation that we are celebrating the festival of unity in the context of separation. We can't do the things that we have read about – we can't gather as a crowd of people from all over the world, we can't go out and preach in the market place. Later, in words of the liturgy, we'll be invited to embrace one anther, but we can't, and it is very odd to say good bye when we're not together to say it. 

But we are right to celebrate this festival of unity that transcends the barriers that human beings erect, and which is also the festival of sending out, and of looking forward with unbounded hope, enriched and empowered by God's Holy Spirit, on a new adventure of life. The Holy Spirit liberates us from our fears, drives us to unlock the door and to stride into a world that we feared was hostile. 

That sounds a reckless thing to say as we live with the continuing fear of the virus and love demands that, at the least, we do not put others at risk. 

Maybe one insight from the lockdown is that it puts us back into the Biblical world of the exclusion of people with sinister symptoms, or who might have been made unclean by them. They might have been excluded until they could show they were cured, like the lepers, or for a fixed period, a day, a week, or whatever. 

There is an ancient wisdom, or is it an instinct, in all this. Then again, those Christian pastors, who insist that congregations can meet for worship because they have faith that God will keep them safe, are falling into the temptation that Jesus resisted in the wilderness. The temptation to put God to the test. For Jesus, the temptation was to leap from the pinnacle of the temple, trusting that God would not let him be hurt. Now the temptation is to disregard the danger of spreading the virus; trusting that God will restrain it. But Jesus understood that's not how faith works – it isn't about demanding God does what we want. Christian discipleship is about following God's agenda, not expecting him to follow ours.

So what are we to do? It is always about discerning where God is at work ahead of us and joining in. We can see God's work in the small acts of care and concern for people, or where people put themselves at risk to care for the sick or frail. Equally we can see God in the work of those who help to maintain safe and civilised society – the refuse collectors, cleaners, food suppliers, delivery workers, and so on. So, showing our appreciation and assisting in whatever way we can, is part of our Christian discipleship; as is being aware, and responding in whatever way we can, to the needs of people throughout the world who lack the resources to keep themselves safe. 

At another level, perhaps the work of God can be seen in a shift in the values and priorities of our society. We can see more clearly what is important and what is superficial. Christian discipleship may require us to stand firm for those values when the world returns to more superficial priorities.

I think the most significant of the events that Pentecost in Jerusalem, was that people from all over the world, who spoke so many different languages, understood in themselves, in their minds, in their hearts, the message of God's love and power that the disciples proclaimed. 

It started with that frightened group of people, gathered in secret behind locked doors, who were transformed by an experience of God that could not adequately be expressed in words. The inadequacy of the words reflects the limited capacity of human beings to experience. Wind and fire pick up Old Testament imagery to describe the overwhelming presence of God: images that express the life and power of God within the limitations of human beings to experience it. But remember, Elijah's experience, God was not the wind or the fire, but in the silence. The reality of God is beyond human capacity to know or to experience. Any experience of God is constrained by our capacity to experience, and is therefore always partial and distorted.

The disciples were transformed by an experience that they could only describe as wind and fire. They were filled with courage to fling open the doors, and they were impelled to go out and babble the good news of God. Those who were not affected by the Holy Spirit experienced what the disciples proclaimed as drunken nonsense, but those who were affected by the Holy Spirit, heard words about the deeds and power of God.

So, God was there before the disciples, it wasn't just about a small group of people, led by Peter, going out to preach to a crowd of uninterested tourists, it was about God pouring out his Spirit upon all flesh, people from all over the world; and about Peter and the others interpreting the meaning of this experience to the crowd. The action of the Holy Spirit was as much in those who hear and understood as it was in those who spoke. 

And it was about uniting diverse humanity; reversing the divisions of Babel. In the prehistoric story of the tower of Babel, humankind was divided by a failure of understanding. Now the divisions are transcended by understanding given by the Spirit. The sign of the work of the Holy Spirit is the uniting of diverse humanity in common understanding.

So mission and evangelism are about seeking where the Spirit of God is at work in the world, and helping people to understand and respond to their experience of God. It may be a dramatic experience of God, but more commonly we find hints of God in the midst of dramatic human experience; life changing events; birth or death, perhaps. That's when we allow our experience of God to emerge, or allow ourselves to acknowledge it. 

The one who brings good news, is the one who enables an experience of God to be accepted, valued and understood, in whatever circumstance it is found. That is what Peter did and that is what we are each called to do, whenever we have the opportunity and the privilege to help people connect with their experience of God. Or maybe people need us to remind them of the need to allow space to experience God – we cannot find God unless we allow ourselves to be found by him.

So for the Minster and our parish, we have come to a time of change, and inevitably a time of anxiety for all concerned, anxiety because the future is unknown. It is, of course, always unknown, but most of the time we rely on supports to navigate the way ahead, and when any guide disappears, some of our certainty disappears too. 

I'm sure there was never any wisdom in relying on me. What we all rely on is far more substantial and reliable than any human being, even if for a time a human being is called represent it. 

17 years ago, you invited me, with Christopher and Aunt Peg, to make our home with you in King's Lynn and you trusted me to lead the Church here for the next period of its long history. We came bearing some wounds from the refusal in some places to allow the possibility of Christopher and I being together – rejection that was, at one time, accompanied by unnecessary hostility and brutality, which wounded some other people as much as it did us. 

But we came to a community that was also wounded; wounded by the untimely death of Bill Hurdman, the previous Vicar. You were generously welcoming and, over time, our being together has been, I hope, for our mutual healing. There have been conflicts and sometimes unkindnesses on the way, for which I bear by far the greater responsibility. We have travelled quite a long way and achieved a few things together. There is more that I had hoped we would achieve than has actually been done, but I suppose that's inevitable.

North Lynn was always close to my heart, one of the few things I remember from when I was interviewed to be Vicar, was saying that if we were serious about our mission, the Vicarage would on the estate. Well there is now a Vicarage and a Team Vicar, in Becca Rogers, who is far more gifted than I would ever have been to take forward Christian mission there. I had hoped there would be a wonderful new North Lynn church building before I left – but at least it's well on the way.

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to be so much part of this wonderful town and Borough; being invited into so many aspects of its life, especially the civic life and the wider life of the Borough. This is a treasure of an historic town which is gaining pride in its heritage, and I hope will find increasing prosperity by celebrating that heritage. 

In the context of that venerable history, my time is insignificant. Since the Reformation there were 40 Vicars before me and before that there were at least 20 Priors– 919 years of Christian ministry. And the Vicar's stall, which had been the Prior's stall, the seat that has supported the bottoms of priests for 640 years, is a reminder to each successor that theirs is a small part, because, as St Paul told the Corinthians:

"Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose ... we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building. Each builder must choose with care how to build ... for no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it. 

None of us can know whether our contribution is of gold or straw – only the day of judgment will reveal it. But no doubt everyone who has taken that seat has simply done their best with what they had, to build on the foundation and that will be equally true of those who come after.

And so we all have to look to the future – to take the risk of living the life where God calls us and privileges us to be, knowing that to wherever he calls us, he is there before us and invites us to open our eyes to see him.

Towards the end of the service, we are asked to renew our acceptance of the life God invites us to live. "Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God's future, trusting him to be your guide?"

So in this leave taking we all have much to be grateful to one another for, but if we have learnt anything from one another it is to go forward into God's future trusting him to be our guide. 

Please pray for Christopher and I, but pray more for those responsible for discerning who will be the next Team Rector, as it will be, and that the whole community will have the courage, in the power of the Spirit, to go forward with whomever it is, wherever God calls each of you. Pray too for Becca, Angela, Fiona, Andy, Kelly, Peter and Peter, and for all who will continue to serve the ministry in the parish in the meantime.

Chris Ivory 31 May 2020


Speeches from the Churchwardens:

Dear Chris,

As many of us now know sometimes zoom meetings can be a challenge so first may I say, just in case we get technical problems and possibly we lose this link, these two simple words. THANK YOU.

This obviously was not the send-off we were hoping for and many of the congregation are saddened that they are not able to join in zoom but we are hopeful that you and Christopher can return later this year to be with us all and celebrate with a proper farewell service.

On behalf of the PCC and the congregation of King's Lynn Minster, Fiona and myself would like to say a few words to express our gratitude for all that you have done for us ,for all the work you have been involved  with and for making our place of worship an ongoing treasure. Thank you for the many Services you have led, the preparation and thought that you put into them has been much appreciated by the regular congregation as well as those attending Civic and Special Services.

Thank you, Chris, for the past 17years of service here at the Minster and your involvement with the wider community. For your guidance and expertise given to many committees and groups, Whitefriars academy, the Purfleet trust. MIND, North end + North Lynn community trust to name but a few.

Thank you, Chris, for leading us and for the encouragement you have given us all in God's name. Asking of us what is our vision for the future of St.Margarets now King's Lynn Minster. Through Prayer, belief, determination and some trepidation, so much has been achieved during your time here with us.

Thank you, Chris, for your tireless efforts to balance the finances'. Your acts of fund raising. Tea and music in the vicarage. The vicars bottle stall for most if not all our fete days and for the one service each year when we discuss our planned giving commitments along with prayer and praise.

In 2005 it was the completion of our 10 Bell restoration and installation of the new ringing chamber and eventually the Bells of St Margaret’s were again a welcome sound for the Town of King's Lynn.

In 2011 St Margaret’s became a Minster in recognition that as a Church it provided a ministry far wider than that of a normal Parish Church, it is the Civic Church of West Norfolk the title dose belongs to the building but once again Chris thank you  for the part you played in that recognition.

In 2015 you oversaw the final stage of the restoration of the wonderful Snetzler organ installed here in 1754. Work was carried out on the organ case, its pipes, its pedal stops, its large reed stops and the final stage of the tonal work completed the refurbishment.  It was obvious to see how proud you were to be involved with such a project.

One vision was to at last get us Toilets within the Church and it was decided to do this along with some much-needed restoration work so along with a new office, meeting room and loo's being built in the South West tower the project began. Along with the support of Kelly, it was you Chris who made this project possible. A heritage lottery grant was secured. Funds were raised and through your relentless efforts of grant applications the finance was in place and the work began. Finally, after ensuring no shoddy workmanship would be tolerated, you Chris made sure that the project was finally complete and handed over just in the nick of time. The frustration and the strain of such a huge amount of work must have at times been a great burden and at times questions would have been raised about the project ever being complete but finally completed it was.

For that Chris we say a huge Thank you.

Chris I could go on but as you always used to say at our PCC meetings it would be good to finish by 9.30!

And so, after all this and along with so much more that you have given to us and to many here in this Parish, we all hope you enjoy your much-deserved retirement and may God bless you and be with you now and always.

And now Fiona would like to say a few words to Christopher.

Thank you Andy.  Chris, Andy has spoken for us all and others will have things to say in a minute but my thanks to you too, for all that you have done and for the gifts that you have brought to your time in Lynn, for all the hard work you are still putting in to have everything as organised as it can be before you leave.  Thank you.

I don’t know whether everyone has had the chance to watch the Service you took this morning but I have to say that it was enhanced for me by the sight of the wafting incense mingling with the shaft of light that shone on you, the High Altar and the Reredos.  It was lovely.

We would also like to thank Christopher for all that he has done for the life of the Minster and for the support that he has given to Chris in his Ministry here. 

Christopher, you have contributed in so many ways to our Services, often multi-tasking – serving, singing in the Choir, as Cantor for the psalms and leading our intercessions.  You have been on the flower arranging rota and have helped Chris on numerous occasions to move furniture before and after so many of the Special Services.  

You have made Simnel Cakes and Hot Cross Buns, and poured wine during concert intervals. You have washed up hundreds of glasses, counted money and done so much more behind the scenes.

You were a regular cyclist for the Norfolk Churches Cycle Ride, usually covering many miles, and visiting a lot of Churches while raising money for the Minster as well as for the Norfolk Churches Trust.

You have been a loyal and increasingly renowned cake maker for the Tuesday and Saturday Cafes.  People have often asked for your cakes wondering what the latest recipe might be.  They have become quite a talking point and several of us have been trying to persuade you to continue baking, once you have moved house, devising ways to transport them to Lynn we have suggested that you put them on the train from Cambridge and we would meet it.

As Andy has said you and Chris were regularly seen running the bottle stall for the Fete and I shall miss our “friendly” rivalry as we competed in the various games organised by Andy and Carole.

I shall also miss seeing you, calmly and professionally following the score when page turning for pianists at concerts. I am sure that at times it was a lot harder than you made it look.

Many people will miss the Sunday afternoon concerts that you and Chris held in the Vicarage.  I am sure that you must have introduced people to music and instruments that they might not otherwise have known, as well as providing much entertainment and, yes, more cakes.

Thank you Christopher for all that you have done.   

A lot of people have sent cards to you both which you can read at your leisure but now, before other people have their turn to speak, it would be good if you would both open the card and the presents that we have given you.  They come with our love, thanks and very best wishes for a happy and healthy future.  We do hope to have another Celebration with you in due course.