For many retirement means a chance to slow down put on the slippers and take it easy, but not for the Revd John and Cathie Rutter from Ripon who are using their retirement to fulfil a long held dream of returning to Africa to work with the Church Mission Society.
Fierce fighting in the country they have planned to go to, South Sudan, has meant a change of plans for the couple who will now be heading to neighbouring Uganda later this month and are hoping to help at a refugee camp. They will stay in Uganda until they can continue with their original plans to teach at the Kajo Keji Bible College in South Sudan, curently suffering from ethnic conflict and violence.
A farewell service for John and Cathie was held at Holy Trinity Church, Ripon at the weekend with some uncertainty but much love and prayers (as well as a special farewell cake - see below right) for the couple who have been serving in the church for the past 36 years.
South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, was plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013. A peace deal signed in August 2015 has not stopped the fighting, and clashes last July set off further violence across South Sudan. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced 3.1 million to flee their homes.
For the time being the couple are heading for neighbouring Uganda and are hoping to serve the church of South Sudan by working in refugee camps close to the border.
The couple first met in Nigeria in the 1970s while working with Voluntary Service Overseas. They returned to Ripon 36 years ago and since then have both been active members of the congregation at Holy Trinity Ripon. While Cathie has been a long time secretary at the church, John taught at St Aidan’s High School, Harrogate, for 21 years and was ordained in 2007, becoming an Assistant minister at Holy Trinity with responsibility for St John's church, Bondgate.
Now they are retired, they have decided to turn into reality a long held dream to return to Africa together. Despite the dangers, John says the time is right. “It feels right going now. We have been here thirty six years, we are both retired and have finished our last jobs in Ripon. We see this as an adventure and it is an opportunity to re-energise.”
He added, “It is special to have a first-hand connection with a third world country, it is important to share positive news from Africa, not just negativity.”
Cathie is equally enthusiastic about the move. “It is exciting to think that we will be teaching pastors in training who are leaders of the future and can make an impact.”
For more information about Sudan neighbouring South Sudan visit the Link page here