Long-distance Lent

Today I have doubled the number of services I have taken at St Mary’s to a grand total of two.  This morning’s family service went really well and Clifford did a great talk on the falling tower of Siloam, aided by some cardboard tubes.  After the service we hot-footed it down to the ‘tin tabernacle’ in Golden Green for another family service and then a quick ‘question time’ for the new vicar.  I had to confess that I do not play the guitar or sing so we may need to rope in some musical support in the future for that one.

We should be moving into the Vicarage in Hadlow straight after Easter, when the work on the house is finished.  Until then I remain a long-distance vicar, driving about an hour each way to the parish.  Whilst everybody has been absolutely fine about that (at least within my earshot) it does feel distinctly ‘odd’ not being present in the community.  In fact I am doing the absolute opposite of what I thought and imagined I would be doing at the start of a new ministry, which is basically being everywhere and seeing everybody.  As my training incumbent always said: “Man proposes, God disposes.”  In other words God looks at our plans, has a little chuckle, and does what He wants to do with us.  I suppose this time of transition is both helping to ease us out of our beloved, adopted, Woodchurch, whilst reinforcing the value and importance of a priest being present in their church community – to use the phrase – ‘incarnating’ the gospel.

On the home front (still in Woodchurch) Annabelle had a big day today as she rode her bike for the first time without either stabilisers or daddy holding on.  I know it probably should have happened years ago but, nonetheless, today I had that rather poignant moment of stopping running and watching her cycle down the road on her own, willing her not to fall and feeling very proud but still missing the ‘holding on’.

Back to Hadlow in the morning for a meeting with the people at Hadlow College for a talk about chaplaincy work there.

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“Welcome to Hadlow”

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These are the words ringing in my ears today.  As I stood outside the church door this morning saying goodbye to the congregation following my first 10.00am service the welcome was wonderful.  The service itself went off without too many disasters and there were about 120 communicants, although that may have been slightly higher than usual as people were coming to see the new Vicar.  And, of course, the slightly weird thing is that today was my first service as a Vicar, rather than being a curate.  Whilst the change in title does not affect my priestliness it does mean that the buck is more likely to stop with me when things go a bit Pete Tong…

Although my Vicaring has started in Hadlow we have still not moved into the Vicarage whilst we wait for some bits and pieces to be done there.  Whilst that is not too much of an issue it did mean a very early start this morning (5.45am) in order to get there for the 8.00am service.  However, as I keep telling myself, lots of people with ‘proper’ jobs commute all the time.  The more important issue is that it is hard to be a priestly presence when one is being a commuter and not being present in the community.  Still, I shall try to be there as much as possible and, before too long, we shall be there more fully.

So, how do I feel after being installed on Tuesday and having done my first services?  The answer is that I feel well and truly welcomed and I look forward to getting properly stuck in!