The church family said a sad goodbye to Stephen Thornton, our Minister for seven years, at his final service on Sunday 28 August.
The service began with the thanksgiving, blessing and dedication of baby James Philip Alan Bailey.
Then, after the young people had left for their various groups, Sue Bowen read the text for the day: Daniel 5, vs 1-9, 13-16 and 24-28.
In his sermon Stephen reminded us of one of the great themes of his teaching and preaching during his years at Fleet: the vital importance of the interpretation and study of scripture. Scripture cannot be taken at face value: it deals with the great issues of life, such as who we are and why we are here, and therefore we need to work hard to understand what the underlying message is.
The book of Daniel was written to encourage the people of Israel during a time of persecution, as a call to put God first at all times, and to remain faithful come what may.
There is a parallel with the Christian church in our society today. We are exiles in our own land and feel lost and misunderstood in an age where materialism, secularism and atheism have largely replaced faith in God. However when God is de-throned, other gods jump in – injustice, greed, lust, cruelty and selfishness.
Like Daniel, we are called to be faithful to our God under all circumstances, no matter how great the difficulties. For each one of us makes a difference – we are all vital to God’s work. We must not be complacent, but constantly strive to learn and grow and bear witness, which is the only way to build a nation of justice, faith and love.
This is the message of Daniel, and this was Stephen’s message to our congregation as his ministry with our church came to an end.
An extract from Walton’s ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ was played, upon which the congregation were invited to meditate.
A photo of the congregation was taken as a tribute to Stephen, and the service was followed by a light lunch with celebration cake so that the church family could say their goodbyes and give Stephen their very best wishes for his future ministry. He will be greatly missed.