Today brings with it the funeral of a very dear man who was an inspiration to many. He passed away suddenly leaving a loving family and a great many friends in mourning.
Ian Southall assessed me at my first trial service when I was training to become a Methodist Local Preacher. He, with my mentor John, approved my training to the Circuit committee, and he had some very kind words to say about my leading and how to improve on what I was doing.
He was a direct and sympathetic person, who saw folks as fellow beings rather than ranking their importance, and he inspired me to do better and try harder not only in preaching but generally.
Ian’s death left some open dates in the preaching plan for the circuit. Against all common sense, given I’m no longer pursuing the Local Preacher training and am now a confirmed Anglican, I’ve filled in for one already and will again next month.
My sermon last Sunday was about inheritance, and about Ian in a way.
When I think of an inheritance it goes beyond the estate a person leaves. It’s about the things you carry with you. Do you have your mother’s eyes? Your father’s laugh? The skills and preferences we pick up from our parents, carers and mentors shape our lives.
Solomon is remembered for his wisdom. When offered the chance to request a gift from God, 1 Kings records a young and awestruck King Solomon replying that he wished to be given the skills he needed to govern wisely and justly. That’s the sort of inheritance that lasts and pays out over the long term. Money is spent, food eaten, and favours forgotten. A true and lasting inheritance, though, is a treasure which remains with the recipient and returns great rewards when it’s spent wisely.
I am grateful for the little pieces of wisdom and guidance I have inherited from my conversations and work with Ian over the time I knew him. He’ll be missed. In his place, I’ll be preaching at Aldridge Methodist Church on Sunday 10th August at their morning service and you’re welcome to come and give me some moral support if you like. I’ll be doing it partly because it needs doing and also so that Ian’s investment in me delivers a return. I have the chance to fulfil a need, and the basic skills to cover it, and this is part of my inheritance. I can think of no better way to spend it.