Forty years ago, Gerald and Gill Mack were happily expecting their first child. But Gill collapsed after the birth of Ivan and was not expected to live, after experiencing a pulmonary embolism.
But Gill, then a midwife, recovered, and as she and Gerald prepare to retire for a second time round - she as vicar of St John’s, Hurst Green and All Hallows, Mitton, and Gerald as a lay reader - she says they regard the extra time they have had together - four decades - “as a bonus!”
She said: “It was partly as a result of coming through that difficult time that I felt there was something that God was calling me to and later became a call to do ordained ministry and I was ordained deacon in 1987 and then priest in 1994.”
Originally from the south east corner of Kent, which she refers to as “channel tunnel land”, Gill was a midwife for 20 plus years, and Gerald a primary school teacher.
Their move up north 10 years ago, was, she says, only meant to be for two or three years to “help out” in the Bowland Deanery - which at the time included St John’s and All Hallows.
Later, after a number of changes, the congregations of Hurst Green and Mitton asked if they would stay on.
The decision to remain was made and Gill describes is as having been “super” - the best 10 years of her time in ordained ministry.
“It is like God saves the best until last,” she said, explaining it has been a joy to work with both churches, meet so many people, witness the young people growing up and to have carried out so many weddings, etc.
There have also been changes too, a major one being the switch in diocese from Bradford to Blackburn and a couple of “big projects” at St John’s including the organ renovation, eco loo and re-decoration.
They are finding saying goodbye hard, Gill thinking about what the word actually means, saying: “How difficult goodbyes are, but goodbye is really ‘God be with you’.”
Gill describes their life together as a partnership and says neither would have achieved what they have done without the other, and as they look forward to a retirement of sorts, both planning to write books, and travelling, this will be from their new home, not in Kent, but Longridge!