LETTER FROM THE VICARAGE
On this page we reproduce the monthly letter from our Vicar (or occasionally from our Licensed Reader Janice Taylor) as it appears in our parish magazine, the Parish News.
Letter from the vicarage
FROM THE VICARAGE - JULY 2018
When I first arrived in the parish I was frequently asked 'Do you like it here?' and 'Will you be staying?' I found this all a bit baffling as having just arrived I wondered why people were so concerned about when I might be leaving! But then one lady followed up these questions with 'because we don't want to get to know you if you're just passing through'.
It didn't take long for me to realise that there was more to these questions than just idle curiosity.
Over the past ten years or so our parish has been under what the Church calls 'Parish Review'. This is not uncommon these days especially in the rural parishes. When Clergy leave or retire and a parish goes into Vacancy the Bishops always take the opportunity to review the life and ministry of the parish. In some cases where a church is vibrant and financially sustainable this review is more about how they see that parish moving forward so that it remains so. Other parishes have more pressing concerns especially if numbers are declining and they are financially hard pressed to cover all the necessary costs of a full-time Vicar. In these cases the Bishop needs to decide whether to join parishes together to make a Benefice, or perhaps appoint a half-time post, or change the living to 'house for duty' where a retired priest is available to cover services but not to run the parish. These decisions are not taken lightly nor hurriedly and so in these cases the Bishop 'suspends the living' and instead of appointing a Vicar places a Priest-in-charge to oversee the Parish whilst the review is carried out. These reviews can take many years, especially if parishes are border-line sustainable/declining, so several Priests-in-Charge may be appointed during this period. But this is not about parishes being seen as 'failing'. It is about taking stock and realistically seeing how a church can grow and become increasingly 'vibrant' –'vibrant' spiritually being the main concern of the Bishop, even if being 'vibrant' financially may take a little longer. But these times of 'review' can leave parishes feeling unsettled and unsure of how long their priest will be staying. And it can be equally unsettling for the priest. Perhaps this is what lay behind those searching questions I was frequently asked.
Sadly for many rural parishes, and for a variety of reasons, the Bishop has to make that difficult decision to permanently 'suspend the living' and see how best a community can be served in the future. But joyously – although all too infrequently – the suspension can be lifted because the church is growing and the Bishop once again appoints a Vicar.
My joy is that, in the not too distant future, I will no longer be your Priest-in-Charge .... I'll be your Vicar!
This is wonderful news for us as a church family – that we are a growing parish. We are growing in the Grace of God, both in our personal journeys of faith, and as a community of faith. This growth may seem miniscule at times, and we may not notice it particularly, but we are, and we should rejoice in it.
So where do we go from here?
Quite simply, we need to keep on growing!
At our APCM we identified ways in which we hope to continue growing this coming year. One of these was to grow more confident in speaking about our faith to others, so this Autumn I will arrange some sessions to start us on this journey. Our journey will start by gaining confidence in what we 'know'. All too often our lack of confidence to speak about our faith stems from our perception that we don't really know our bibles and are therefore fearful we won't be able to answer any searching questions others may have. We probably know our bibles better then we think, even if we can't quote chapter and verse, so we will spend time gaining confidence in what we 'know' before looking more deeply at what we believe.
Prayer has been, and must continue to be vital to our 'growing'. 'Thy Kingdom Come' gave us an opportunity to engage with prayer in some unexpected ways, and the 'Lord's Prayer Trail' in the churchyard has been a real blessing to many, so much so that we are looking to make the trail a permanent feature so we can all continue to explore and enjoy it. Prayer in its simplest form is about bringing ourselves more deeply into God's presence and inviting Him more deeply into our lives, and the more we can keep energised and ever mindful to be prayerful, the more we will grow.
Growing financially will always be a challenge. Not only do we have the necessary expenses of running our parish, but we also have our two beautiful buildings to maintain. Whilst it is a privilege to be custodians of them, they can at times be expensive to keep in good order. We also need to look ahead to ensure that our buildings are 'fit for purpose' both for us now and for future generations, so we really do need to consider how we can improve the facilities at Holy Trinity by installing a much needed loo. But we can rise to this challenge. Later this month, on July 28th we are holding a fundraiser at Whithurst Park with an 'Open Garden' and cream teas, please do come along and enjoy the afternoon.
But what difference does becoming 'Vicar' make to me personally?
In many ways it makes no difference at all. I never came thinking that I was 'only' the Priest-in-Charge and that my ministry would in some way be 'less than' because of it. I came with a real sense that God had directed me here, and that He would bless my ministry with you all the time we focused on building His kingdom here in this place - and He most certainly has. And most joyously we all get on rather well together – which is always an added bonus!
So in answer to the above questions – Do I like it here? Yes I most definitely do. I feel very blessed to be here. How long will I be staying? I intend to stay as long as I sense that God wants me to be here, which I pray will be for a long time yet. The difference is, the Bishop has given his blessing for me to remain in post here on a firmer footing than perhaps we had as a Priest-in-Charge, so I'm definitely not 'just passing through' – which may or may not be good news for the community. I'll leave that for you to decide!!
God bless you all, and may we keep growing in the Grace of God together.
We obviously need to have our articles for the magazine ready in good time to get them printed – and this was the case with my 'letter' this month. If you haven't already worked it out, I wrote it ahead of hearing that my Licensing Service needed to be postponed. I had rather hoped to be your Vicar by now, so sadly had to amend a few words. It had said 'by the time you read this ....' but as you will see instead it reads 'in the not too distant future .....'
Why is it postponed? Basically, because some of the legal paperwork went astray and there just wasn't enough time to get it all sorted ahead of the 21st.
Just one of those things and not much anyone could do about it. Bishop Mark and Archdeacon Fiona are as frustrated and saddened as we are, and have asked me to pass on their sincere apologies for the postponement.
Joyously though I can tell you the new date – Wednesday 19th September at 7.30 pm.
We'll get there folks, and a change of date doesn't change a thing, we are still a vibrant and growing church and long may we continue to be so .... but I am looking forward to being able to say 'I'm your Vicar.'