By the way…
Being elected Moderator in 2006 has no doubt saved my life.
That election prompted me to make an appointment with my GP in which I asked her to give me a thorough medical examination and to arrange the colonoscopy I had always planned to have sometime in the future.
Among other things, I had blood tests which indicated a deficiency of iron. This led my GP, after a little hesitation, to suggest I should also have an endoscopy to check out the top end.
The colonoscopy revealed no problems. The endoscopy revealed cancer of the oesophagus.
It was caught early. The prognosis was good but would need to be confirmed after the major surgery required to remove the cancer.
I had had no symptoms but it would have only been a matter of months before I would have found it difficult to swallow and by then the prognosis would have been quite different.
For me this was a miracle – not a miracle of healing, but a miracle of timing and I believe God was in it.
Some thought that the diagnosis of cancer would mean I could not take up the ministry of Moderator. Even though I had to address the possibility of death, I was never in any doubt that I would become Moderator, because God had called me to be so.
That calling in itself helped to sustain me but, more than anything, the prayers, the love and the support of the church and my family uplifted me and gave me that something I find hard to explain (but was palpable) which carried me forward.
Throughout my recovery, people I have encountered, from hospital staff to many who expected the worst, have been amazed at my progress. I am often greeted with the words, “Oh you are looking a lot better than I expected!”
Was I miraculously healed?
No. I still had to undergo a major operation; I still had to bear the pain; I still had to experience what it means to be totally dependent on others; I still had to go through many weeks of recuperation (despite my good progress) which included a bout of pneumonia; I still have to deal with the changes in my lifestyle such surgery involves, not least of which is the uncertainty, that all cancer patients know, in terms of what the future holds – will the cancer come back?
I have the prospect of long life because of the skill and dedication of my doctors and, in particular, my surgeon and his team, the nurses and physiotherapists.
Was I miraculously healed? No.
Was God in all this? Yes, I believe so.
Did the prayers of the church make a difference? Yes, because through them I experienced the working and presence of God in my life – I have experienced grace in amazing ways and I pray that the nodding acquaintance I have had with death and the insights I have gained will give me the courage to be the Moderator
God has called me to be.
My thanks go out to all who have walked with me on this journey: those who have prayed, many even though they don’t know me; those who have supported my family and me in many different practical ways; those in the congregation and Synod who have given me time and space without expectation.
It is a privilege to be part of this Uniting Church and I pray I will serve it well.
By the Grace of God.