There was a superb turnout at Hexham West End for a special service to say farewell to Revs Paul and Alex Dunstan.
Friends from around the Circuit and beyond joined together for the memorable occasion, on Sunday 1st May.
The musicians at West End provided the perfect backdrop for an emotional, but enjoyable morning of praise and worship.
Rev Peter Holwell, of Newbiggin, who was at college with Rev Paul, was the preacher. He said it was an honour and a privilege to be in attendance. He noted that changing times for Paul and Alex, as well as the Circuit, follow Brexit, a pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine.
But in an engaging sermon, Rev Holwell emphasised that our faith in the love of Jesus Christ has to be bigger than the world in which we live – and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
He gave examples of people who had found strength in their faith to not only cope with, but to live through difficult situations. He challenged us to know our King – and to live him.
Rev Jenny Porterpryde led the service and invited both Rev Paul and Rev Alex to speak. Separately, they reflected on the joy of working with folk across the Circuit's communities, with Alex praising the courage of churches in the Allen Valley to embrace change in recent times.
Rev Alex thanked all of her church communities and everyone across the Circuit for their kindness and support, and encouraged us all to "carefully determine what pleases the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10) – to really seek deeply what the Lord wants. Not what we want personally, but what He wants.
Rev Paul said that because he and Rev Alex weren't retiring, he wouldn't have the opportunity to share testimony when the time comes, so he shared a few words about God and what the Lord had done for him.
He said that becoming a child of God at the age of 19 was a life changing experience, declaring that it was his great passion to help others come to know God. Rev Paul said it had been great to see Jesus at work in other people. He paid tribute to his Ministerial colleagues in Tynedale, past and present, as well as friends across the Circuit.
"What a treasure we have in the Gospel," said Rev Paul, "how can we keep it to ourselves when there is so much that God has to offer to us? I want to invite you to offer yourselves, as we offer ourselves back to God. Help us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus."
Ken Williamson, who has worked in the Circuit, notably at Haltwhistle, led prayers, thanking God for all Paul and Alex have done.
The service also heard from Senior Steward Millie Robinson, from representatives of Hexham West End, Hexham Trinity and Acomb, while a blessing as given by Deacon Anne Taylor.
A video of the service is now on the Circuit YouTube channel. Click the thumbnail (at the top right of this article) to view.
It is also available on this website under the Resources section.