Sunday 24 February 2013
Today is a sad day at St Martin’s as we say farewell to Ralph Smith who is retiring after nearly 13 years as Head Verger. That role is a huge challenge but through a period of building work and restoration it has been as hard and I hope as satisfying as any such job in the Church can be.
Ralph has been brilliant. As Warden I experienced the incredible range of his work, his talent and his good humour. He knows everything about the fabric of this place. He has always been prepared to perform any task from creating outrageous props for Nativity or Easter dramas to building parts of his own office or making the logistically impossible, possible. All this on top of the central mission of ensuring our worship can proceed serenely whatever may be going on beneath the surface. Ralph has always made St Martin’s a place of welcome for all. He makes everyone, from a Prince to a distressed homeless person, feel as though they belong here. He truly ‘gets’ St Martin’s in all its guises.
When we celebrate Ralph’s ministry today we give thanks to him and to God. We learn that we are all called to do special things and also to do the small, unseen things in God’s service. And as Ralph deserves to be, we can be proud and feel honoured to serve.
There is a danger to be avoided in all this. That is to rest on the cliché ‘Every Church Needs a Ralph’. That is not the way God would have it. The phrase must be ‘This Church Needed Ralph’. God calls us as individuals not as types. He recognises our talents and our foibles but calls each of us, by name, to serve him with all that we have to offer. We are blessed that he called Ralph and Ralph answered with gusto. May we all, in our individual ways, do likewise.