This weekend has the feeling of an end of an era, as we say farewell to our Assistant Minister, Alexandra Lilley and her husband Michael. Alexandra will preach her final sermon at the 11am service on Sunday before they move home from King's Cross to east London.
Alexandra and Michael have played a big part at St Mary's since she came here in the autumn of 2011 to begin a three-year placement. While working half-time for us, Alexandra has been training for ordination at St Mellitus Theological College.
She writes, "I knew nothing about St Mary's when I started here, having only popped in for the Good Friday services.
"What I've discovered over the past three years, is a beautifully diverse community of people with generous hearts, seeking God's kingdom in Islington and wherever they live and work. I am hugely grateful to you for showing such kindness and love to Michael and me, and for teaching us more about the God who extends his welcome with open arms to anyone who chooses to come near. We will miss you, but pray for that spirit of generosity and openness to continue to bless and transform this part of London as we move eastwards.
"I'll be ordained as deacon at St Paul's Cathedral at 3pm on 28 June (all welcome) and starting a curacy at St Paul's Shadwell in Tower Hamlets. St Paul's is a vibrant church in a fascinating neighbourhood, with a large Bengali population and a growing number of young professionals. It's an area that throughout its history has much social and financial deprivation and I'm looking forward to seeing how the church grows in bringing light and freedom into places of struggle and limited opportunity."
Alexandra's vivid preaching and her generous style in leading courses have been appreciated by us all. She has a passion for seeing the gospel address issues in wider society, justice for marginalised people, as well as transforming individual lives. In the office, we'll miss her sense of fun as well as her amazing capacity to handle a large workload without ever seeming to flag.
Michael has wonderfully found roles to contribute to St Mary's. He's learned bell-ringing, been a wizard with the technology that supports our worship and a prayerful encourager to several people.
We're glad that they're going to be just a short Overground journey away and will pray God's blessing upon them both at this Sunday's service, which will end with a celebration shared lunch.