The service was deeply moving, expressing a huge amount of love and gratitude to this wonderful man. The church is shared between the congregation Stuart leads (Anglican/Free Church) and the Catholics. It's a beautiful modern building expressing something of the diversity yet unity of the different church cultures. The service at 9.30 was followed by Mass at 11.00 which began considerably later for this occasion only!
Stuart preached on the Road to Emmaus and spoke poignantly on journeying with Christ wherever that might take us. As a good sacramental Baptist he made much of encountering Jesus in breaking open the Word as well as in breaking bread.
The 'bring and share lunch' following was to be the occasion when speeches were made, but before communion a multitude of people came forward to pray for Stuart and lay hands on him. It seemed appropriate to sum up the many prayers offered with the Blessing from the Northumbria Community Morning Prayer: The peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever he may lead you ...'
I'm going to miss Stuart. I've found him stimulating theologically and spiritually - there aren't many Baptists who've done the 30 Day Ignatian Exercises! I've been touched by his warmth and transparency and enriched by his fellowship and friendship. I admire greatly his openness and courage to follow where God leads despite the considerable personal cost. And I've enjoyed our breakfasts together at Morrisons. It's no exaggeration to say that in Stuart I've encountered Jesus.
Stuart has started a blog, Stuart's Nicaraguan Blog - do visit him - and we're going to keep in touch in cyberspace.
But for the meantime, as I said this morning, 'In your own words Stuart - Go Well!'