Vicar's Letter August 2018


Dear Friends,


I guess it's inevitable that my thoughts (and indeed much of my activity) are dominated at the moment by the prospect of my imminent departure from Stonehouse. Part of that is panic at the thought of how much needs to be done in the next two months – how much stuff needs to be disposed of; how many decisions there are to be made about what to retain what to throw away; how we shall organise ourselves and the things around us in a new home; how much paperwork I need to let go of before I leave and who I should lumber with the jobs that I have taken for granted but will no longer be here to do; questions about what we need to do in the Vicarage to leave the place in a fit state for whoever will be living here (for instance, the fish have gone but there is large hole where the pond was!).


The other side of that process is reflecting on the past, not in a self-critical way, nor in an attempt at aggrandisement, but in order to learn the lessons gained from my ministry here both for my benefit and for that of the Church in this parish and Team. I will miss you and I know that for all kinds of different reasons many of you will miss me. Some of those reasons are personal and I am very grateful for the individual friendships that Anne and I have formed over the last fifteen years; many are concerned with the office that I have held over that time. I believe that is has been significant for the town to have “a vicar” (whether or not I have ever held that title). All kinds of folk have appreciated having a vicar - to take the funeral of their loved one, to baptise their child, to marry them, to complain at when the churchyard isn't how they want it; to listen while they explain that they never talk about religion but …; simply to say hello to, in a world where too many people fail to see past their 'phones to each other. It's not been a case of doing me a good or a bad job in a particular case. It is a case of the Church, represented by the office of Vicar being in the “village” or the “town”, being in and being part of the community.


The fact that the Vicar matters, doesn't mean that you don't! One person in a town of 7,700 can only be a small symbol of what the church, the people of God, is. But do, please, be aware of what you have been asking me, and what you will be asking my successor, to be as well as to do. Then, please be prepared to do many of the things that you've left to me to do! The “job” that I have had here is in the process of changing; it will not be the same for my successor. As much as possible the Team will go on being available, for baptisms, weddings, funerals, being here as a Church presence, representing Christ to the world. They will depend on you – as I have – to complete that presence, to continue that representation. And they – and whoever finishes up living in and working from Stonehouse Vicarage – will rely on you for all kinds of jobs, as have I, but not always the same tasks done in the same way.


This is a good point for me to say a particularly big thank you to some of you and very warm thank you to very many of you for all you have done as the people of God in this place. Sunday worship has been a pleasure here because I have had to do so little! Thank you very much to our Churchwardens, Readers, Choir and Sidespeople, to our lessons readers, those who have led intercessions, fathomed the intricacies of the computer and the organ, come out with occasional ideas for something completely different, or just taken part in all that we have done together. Let that continue to the glory of God whoever is at the front of the Church at the time. Thank you too to those who have managed to keep track of what is going on, of the people that have passed through at various stages of their lives. As the Team has developed, I have been very aware that I am not always in Church to make sure that Banns are read or arrangements about weddings or baptisms are made. Thank you to those of you who have taken that on, and those of you who do such a good job of making sure that new people are made welcome but not overwhelmed.


I hope we have all learnt that being the Church in this place is a matter of working together. Thank you for that work we have shared, that you will share with others in the future. Plenty more to do in the next couple of months. And I shall still have more to say next month!

God Bless,