Norwich vicar retraces her story on sabbatical
Rev Madeline Light has recently completed a 3-month sabbatical, travelling around the world with her husband, Paul, revisiting her own story, places from her childhood and the house of her birth in Melbourne and setting it all against God's story.
Rev Madeline Light, Vicar of St Stephen’s, Norwich has recently enjoyed a 3-month period of sabbatical leave travelling to six countries as well as spending time with family in the UK. Here, in her own words, she reflects on her time out and some of the glimpses she received of God’s amazing love.
In my “time out” I have revisited my own story and worked at setting it alongside a big story, the story of God, in the Bible. It has involved travel, meeting people, reading, listening to scripture and sermons from all over the world and large swathes of time alone. It has been a journey, physical emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
In a surreal experience listening to a sermon preached in a church in central London while on a bus in Sri Lanka, on our way back from visiting a tea plantation, the speaker talked about “where do our stories begin?” Mine began when a nurse on a P&O ship travelling from San Francisco to Melbourne reprimanded a man for visiting someone in her care.
They married a later in the year and I was born in due course. By the time I was 3 years old I had travelled half way around the world, lived in 3 different countries and experienced countless disruptions and changes. So this sabbatical took up these themes of travel, disruption and change!
Between 28 January and 24 April we travelled around the world, visited 6 foreign countries, slept in 16 different beds. We were transported by ship, aeroplanes, trains, campervan and car. We drove a total of 4,500 miles in Australia and England.
We had our first experiences of a third world country when we visited Mumbai in India. We had brief tastes of cultures very different from ours. In Melbourne, we visited the church where my parents married and the house where they lived when I was born. We stayed with the widow of my godfather who had shared a cabin with my father.
Back in England Paul, started a new job in Norwich while finishing his job in Cambridge which he has enjoyed in various capacities over the last 18 years. This meant that he worked for 5 days and we moved between Norwich and Cambridge, visiting his parents, our sisters and our children and their families at weekends. We went to 10 different churches, some Anglican, some not. We learned to travel very light and occasionally had to improvise when we didn’t have what we needed.
I had huge swathes of time to listen to the Bible being read (I have the Message translation on CD), numerous sermons and teaching, while enjoying practical tasks. I had time to reflect and pray alone and occasionally with friends. The fruit has been personal and also for us as a community and its fruit will be tested in time.
The Spirit has talked to me about taking a different perspective of my role in the church, about judgement (a subject I would never have dreamed as a topic for sabbatical!), about certain thoughts that I have that are wrong, and most of all reminded me of the joy of a simpler life which makes listening to the Holy Spirit so much easier.
I have had time to defrost after the death of my mother. I have had space to experience the sadness of not being able to tell her about our adventures, knowing that her joy of being with Jesus is greater than any earthly joy and one day we will share stories again.
We have such an amazing God who loves us all so much and He has granted Paul and me more glimpses of that great love.
Rev Madeline Light, April 2017
Photo: Rev Madeline Light and Paul Light north of Sydney