Growing in new ground: deployed curacy

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St. Mary’s Church, Old Basing and Lychpit
I wrote my last essay two weeks ago, handed in my training portfolio a week ago, and today it was announced that I am on the move, ministerially speaking. I see the Bishop to conclude the formal element of my curacy later this month. Then, it will be all change at the end of June.

I have spent three fascinating years with the people of St. Mary’s Old Basing and Lychpit. They have been welcoming, loving, patient and kind; a joy to know. They’ve even seen the point of starting a Messy Church, and laughed at my husband’s jokes. I was told this morning by one gentleman that my smile will be missed – a very gracious comment to one who defaults to ‘serious’ when she has a lot on her mind. Another lady reminded me that it won’t just be me going, but that my husband will be missed too; apparently he could “sell snow to an Eskimo” (as the saying goes), though I think she means ‘books to a publisher’! [You have to have seen him selling second-hand books to realise she’s right.]

My occasional, itinerant ministry around the North Hampshire Downs Benefice over the last year will also conclude next month; one Basing gentleman has described me as a ‘travelling saleswoman for God’ of recent months. Helping ease their burden during a clergy shortage, as well as my formal placement there, has given me the confidence that I can to adapt to almost any liturgical context even at short notice, and I will miss them too.

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St. Mary’s Eversley
Instead of all this, I am being deployed by the Bishop a little closer to home, and indeed to the other parish to which my itinerant ministry took me last year: St. Mary’s Eversley. They, with their sister church at St. Barnabas Darby Green, are in vacancy and continue together to look for a full-time, stipendiary, Priest-in-Charge. In the meantime they need ministerial support, and in my half-time, self-supporting capacity, I’m it for St. Mary’s. I already know I will be among friends, as there are a few familiar faces from shared ministry with my sending parish of St. Peter’s Yateley, but there will be plenty of new people to get to know, to journey with in loving God, and to collaborate with in sharing the love of Jesus. The Holy Spirit isn’t averse to using obvious geography to support God’s church, and since I live less than a mile from the parish boundary and just three from the church building, it seems such a good idea – and the alarm won’t have to be set quite so early when celebrating Holy Communion at 8am!

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The giant Redwood in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Eversley – from tiny seeds grow…
Eversley was the parish of Charles Kingsley, the Christian socialist and author of among other works the “Water Babies”, but he was also a keen naturalist – I suspect a rather more knowledgeable one than me, and certainly far better travelled. The giant Redwood in the churchyard by the simple war memorial was a seed from a cone he collected in Yosemite, that was planted after his death by his daughter!

Today, St. Mary’s Eversley is a Christian community that describes itself as ‘mixed-economy’ in worshipping style; “a traditional church… with contemporary values”. I look forward to seeking with them how they can grow and strengthen; as I know from my own youth, a long clerical vacancy does not have to be a time of frustration and atrophy, but can enable growth in discipleship and people’s understanding of their own callings under God as they ‘turn a hand’ to tasks and find giftings they never knew they had! That’s part of my story, and I expect to grow as a priest and minister with them as I become part of their story for a while.

Whilst I will be continuing to seek a permanent house-for-duty role somewhere, and my journey with St. Mary’s Eversley will be of necessity short-lived (I have a year to run on my curate’s license, which is why I’m being styled a ‘deployed curate’), I am looking forward to the adventures we can have together. Here’s to 26th June when it all starts in earnest. First come the bitter-sweet good-byes.

Announcement: Title Post (Curacy)

The East end of St. Mary's which serves the parish of Old Basing and Lychpit
The East end of St. Mary’s which serves the parish of Old Basing and Lychpit

I am delighted that all being well, I will be serving my title (doing my curacy) at St. Mary’s Church in Old Basing and Lychpit with Fr. Alec Battey as my training incumbent.

The family and I have spent a few Sundays before Christmas, hopefully incognito, with the good folk of St. Mary’s, including on the occasion of their Christmas Tree festival when most of these photographs were taken.

The Chancel, St. Mary's, Old Basing and Lychpit
The Chancel, St. Mary’s, Old Basing and Lychpit

The church and community will no doubt hold many surprises for me, but there are several delights and challenges which I am already looking forward to:

  • the worship is more sacramental than I’ve experienced regularly (excepting my lovely placements over the years first at All Saint’s, Basingstoke and much more recently at Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde, Rickmansworth) and my prayer is that this will help me grow into the priest God is calling me to be;
  • there is a strong choral tradition – after 20+ years of helping lead worship in various styles in charismatic evangelical churches, cantoring at Sung Eucharist will be a whole new set of skills to grow into, so I hope their choir director is feeling brave having me dropped into their midst;
  • there is a strong sense of the detail of the liturgical year that I’ve really appreciated at college and look forward to becoming much more familiar with at St. Mary’s;
  • there is a strong creative streak in the community. I’m anticipating that this will be a fertile ground for exploring the relationship that can grow between creative skills and the development and celebration of our faith;
  • there is a churchyard conservation group that has stimulated a huge range of wildlife around the church, as well as Old Basing seeming to be laced with open spaces, footpaths and waterways that mean I’ll have ample opportunity to constantly praise God for the wonders of his creation – and that’s before starting to delve deeply into the amazing history of the place;
  • there are schools and other opportunities to work with the younger generations, plus a huge range of local clubs and societies to engage with, something that I’m enthusiastic to do where possible, despite living nearly half an hour away;
  • and there’s a great Bakehouse, a butcher specialising in local meat, we’ve already tried, alongside other local stores and hostelries we’re yet to try including The Crown already recommended to us by the Churchwardens!
The Bolton Chapel, St. Mary's, Old Basing and Lychpit
The Bolton Chapel, St. Mary’s, Old Basing and Lychpit

It’s now just a little less than 6 months till my curacy commences with my ordination as Deacon, which I’ve been advised will be at 10am on Sunday 29th June at Winchester Cathedral. Whilst not a little worried about what lies between now and then, namely much reading, many essays and an interview with the Bishop, I am also excited to actually know the fertile ground in which, God willing, the next four years of my ministry will take place.

As I continue to with my studies, and prepare for ordination, I appreciate the support and prayers of my friends and loved ones, those I already know, and those I am yet to meet.

Will Diocesan Bishops meet their clergy before #HofB meet? #synod

What to me is now a rather poignant carving, in the choir of All Saints Church, Cuddesdon

At approximately 5.50pm last Tuesday night (27th Nov 2012), the Right Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, climbed into the pulpit at All Saints, Cuddesdon to preach to the massed ranks of ordinands and their newly resident community of nuns. He looked at his watch, and commented that it was a week, almost to the hour, since General Synod had made a big mistake.

Then, with Rt Revd Michael Perham the Bishop of Gloucester (who was presiding at Eucharist) looking on, Bishop John apologised. He apologised on behalf of the General Synod for making a mess of things over the issue of female bishops, and specifically for making our lives as ordinands, and our ministries in curacy, even more difficult than it is already.

He went on to explain that in the days immediately after the General Synod vote, he had met with 50+ of the 250ish female clergy of his diocese, to try to share their pain and hear their immediate responses.

With the news yesterday that the Archbishop’s Council have this week

recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time, put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July

I was set wondering as to whether all the Diocesan Bishop’s will be holding such meetings with their clergy before the House of Bishop gather to consider the next synodical steps in this painful journey.

So last night, with the help of Twitter, I discovered the details I list below.

You may well be able to add to this, and if so, I would invite you to please ‘comment’ the details below, so that those who might not have such meetings planned in the near future, and/or whose Diocesan synods meet this weekend, can have a clear picture of where they fit into the pattern of communication and care provided by the Bishops of their Diocese, to those affected by and concerned about last weeks vote.

  • Durham, St. Albans, Oxford, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southwark have met with clergy already, in some cases only with the female clergy, though in the case of St Albans all clergy/readers/laity have been asked to write with feedback
  • Bishops in Sheffield were meeting their clergy last night
  • Dover/Canterbury is holding a Eucharist and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec, which is open to all, not just clergy
  • Ely Bishops are hosting Eucharist, coffee and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec
  • Exeter are meeting Monday 3rd December
  • St Edmundsbury and Ipswich meet on 5th December
  • Southwell and Nottingham on 6th December
  • Liverpool meet (with only the female clergy) on 6th December
  • Chelmsford is hosting a Champagne breakfast (not sure when)
  • Gloucester is meeting all clergy next week for Eucharist, with lunch provided for discussions with female clergy aftewards
  • Coventry has planned a gathering for early December

Among the additional comments I received on Twitter last night were the following:

  • disappointment that not all these meetings are open to all clergy, some are just for the female ones
  • in those diocese that have already had meetings, the ‘diary clearing’ by Bishops that enabled them has been much appreciated.