Interview with Cliff Kennedy
Can you believe that it is 5 years since Cliff Kennedy joined us at the Link! How time has flown! Below is an interview Cliff gave the day before he left to enjoy his retirement.
It’s your last day at work, Cliff! How are you feeling?
Cliff: I suppose it’s slightly strange, and yet, there’s part of me looking forward to it. The second furlough allowed me to ease off slightly over the last year, so it’s not just stopping working completely, and that has allowed me to get used to what it will be like being at home.
Are you looking forward to retirement?
Cliff: Yes, I think I am. It’s a new chapter in our lives, where both of us will be retired. I think there’s also a sense that I need some sort of purpose in my life going forward, so I’m taking the Summer just to work out what that actually looks like.
We often hear when people retire, that they end up busier than they were when they were working!
Cliff: Yes, and that will be part of it. We have eight grandchildren!
Looking back at your time at the Link, what have been your stand-out memories?
Cliff: One of them has got to be the people. There is a great bunch of staff and a great board. There has been a lot of staff changes, a lot of changes of the board. There has been a lot of changes in resources and in funders.
What aspect of your job did you enjoy the most during your time here?
Cliff: I like looking at issues and then trying to get a solution for them. In terms of resources and in terms of managing to get other funding in place. But I think at the end of the day, it had to be the people. Certainly the staff were great, they were dedicated and committed and then we started to make connections with other groups and the churches in the town.
To those who don’t know much about the Link, how would you describe the Link and its vision and purpose?
Cliff: Wow! You might need to stop me! To put it in a nutshell, we try to be what our name says. We try to link and I think as we look at our strategic plan, it was linking individuals with the churches, it was linking individuals and churches with the statutory bodies and it was linking all of those with the general community. And making those connections for people. So we don’t have to do everything ourselves but it’s trying to support and encourage others to do what they’re called to do.
I suppose what is a good example of that would be this new CAP project. Where we’re taking on the management of that person, but the vision and the direction will be done by a board of the churches and I think, that for me sums up what the Link is about. Having said that, if there are other areas where other people are not doing anything, then we will step in, so, for example, our addictions work, working with the young people who are right on the edge, our minority ethnic work, are gaps that were there that we have just filled. We’re trying to provide hope for people.
I have a plaque that quotes St Augustin that says “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” And I think, for me, that sums up what the Link is about. We’re disappointed at some of the systems that have put people into poverty, and from the board to the staff they have the courage to do something about it.
Have you seen God move during your time here and how has it affected your faith, if you have?
Cliff: We were talking last night about the God of miracles. Sometimes we miss the small miracles. And I think, for me, that is what I saw in the Link. We were talking earlier on about the change. Whenever you pray about something, and you see answered prayer and recognise that that is God. Where we were financially and we were praying in relation to funding, and all that and you sometimes forget that this is Gods answer to your prayer and just assume that this is a statutory body being nice to you, but actually, part of that is because you prayed. What we have seen is God’s faithfulness through it all. And whenever you pray and you see answers and things change, and you see lives change. That is what excites me.
It’s every day, “His mercies are new every morning” little steps sometimes.
Absolutely. One of the fascinating things, this is a personal story, but whenever we interviewed for the Youth Worker, and we interviewed this girl and as she talked about her story, her life was turned around by the folk that she’d come across in Oasis and for me that just came full circle. It was that sense of God working in a variety of ways and part of the thing that excites me is just to see lives changed. And to see people get that sense of difference and hope and a leg up etc.
I know that the Kennedys are growing rather quickly as a clan, but apart from looking after the grandchildren, what are you most looking after in your retirement?
Cliff: I think it will be a new chapter in our lives and we’re just going to take our time over the Summer just to pray that through. I think there are two or three possibilities. Having said that, I am not rushing into anything. So, I think I would like, if there are other churches that would be interested in how to get involved in the community, or want to chat, or anything like that, I’m happy to sit down and do that type of idea. I am not looking as a consultant, but would love to be able to share our knowledge.
I’ve talked to a few friends and would maybe like to start a new men’s project that would be aimed at guys who are semi-retiring or just retired. It would be a physical community, a learning community and a spiritual community. So it won’t be a meeting. It will be “let’s go out for a walk together” a book review, “let’s do a project together”, look at men’s health, but something to help guys relate to each other, to form friendships and bonds.
That’s needed. Very often women are well catered for but men perhaps not so much.
Cliff: And women know how to do it automatically. I’m not sure that guys do.
Final question: Have you any words of advice for us at the Link and what are your hope for the future?
Cliff: I think the only word of advice I can give is to keep looking to God or listening to God. And I think letting God direct your paths. We have done that over the last number of years, and we have seen how that has changed. I’m really excited of the Link. There is a firm foundation there. Your new Centre Coordinator, Mark Houston is great, and he will continue that work and I just think the Link will have a real presence in Newtownards and the peninsula. It is all about seeing lives changed and that will be more and more evidenced in the years that lie ahead.
Thanks so much for that, Cliff. Have a happy retirement!