Dear Mark and Melanie
According to my calculation I won’t be around to say goodbye personally when very shortly you will be leaving Southend. I have no doubt many will be and will be saying nice things to you both. As for me, I will be in a country that we have both come to love (India), but I felt I should say my bit to add to the other tributes.
Excuse my fading memory if details aren’t quite spot on – what happens when one grows old and dolally. I seem to recall I met Melanie first soon after you came to Southend six years ago. It was to do with asylum seekers and an organization we both were involved in – CAST. Your energy and enthusiasm made a lasting impression as did your compassion for those who were in a not too good a place. This was to become a reoccurring theme, for example your interest in food banks and homelessness and the way you led the way of responding to the challenge of taking in sanctuary seekers – casualties of the humanitarian disaster that has befallen Syria and the Middle East. It became clear that social justice was one of your things and it was not just about talk but rather doing what was needed to ensure justice was done and doing so with wisdom and tenacity. Another of your things is inclusion. I am sure it must have irked you that the very people you wanted to serve have often been excluded by the church because they are somehow different. You have gone out of your way to remedy this, and no doubt tried to follow what Jesus did when he hung out with “publicans and sinners”. The respect you have by those who might fall in those categories and might not normally darken the doors of church is evidence that you have made good inroads in this endeavor.
This brings me to Mark who came on the scene a little later. I recall one of our first meetings was to do with your work as a hospice chaplain. I’m not sure how you two got together but you both strike me as being well suited and complementary, making a great team. I should say that one of your good points Melanie is your gracious way you responded to the ravings of this right wing reactionary and theological conservative and have never made difference of opinion (which are no doubt many) reason for falling out, and that I appreciated, and dare I say it Mark matches you in this regard. While our paths, Mark, crossed less often because of our involvements, I see in you one who is compassionate that simply wants to serve others. Even in your forays into Green politics, you showed this. Perhaps one of the best complements I can pay any man is to refer to him as a gentleman. Mark, you are a gentleman!
So you are off to pastures new. I have no doubt you have much still to give and I wish you well and pray the Almighty will bless you both and your ministry. We are as they say ships that pass in the night and maybe sometime in the future those ships will pass again. It has been a pleasure knowing you and that you have made an important contribution to life in our town. I look forward to hearing how you two fare, and hopefully keep in touch maybe via good ‘ol Facebook, but quite confident you will continue to make a positive impact.