Tell us what you do in one paragraph?
I try to help the Christian Church in Croscombe deepen, enjoy and live out its faith in God. That involves a multitude of different tasks and taking on different roles at different times, sometimes working alone but often with other people, sometimes giving advice and support, and sometimes acting as a representative of the church in Croscombe. I am also a link between the local church and the wider church in the diocese and further afield.
What do you enjoy about your role?
The fact that it involves such a variety of different work and taking on different roles. At various times I am a counsellor, teacher, preacher, liturgist, musician, social activist, chaplain, consultant, technical adviser, manager and administrator, while being a representative of the Church of England, a leader of the local church, and as far as some people are concerned, a representative of God.
In any one day I can end up doing a whole range of different jobs and relating to people in different roles. That is fun, and it gives me an opportunity to exercise different aspects of my personality and use many different skills. I did a number of different jobs before I became a vicar and none of them, not even school teaching, were so diverse.
Do you have any stories/anecdotes about your work/role that you would like to share?
Shortly after I arrived to be Rector of these parishes I went into St Mary’s in the middle of a weekday morning and found a man lying on the floor taking photographs. I said hello and he got up and explained that he was a church historian from an Australian university, and his specialism was Jacobean church architecture. It occurred to me that this was harder than being a British zoologist who specialised in kangaroos, because at least there are kangaroos in zoos. There are no Jacobean church interiors within ten thousand miles of Australia.
But he explained to me that the seats up near the communion table were not choirstalls but were communion seats. When all the woodwork was put in, during the early 1600s, the communion table (and it would not have been called an altar!) would have been placed between these seats so that the people taking communion could sit round the table, like they would for a meal.
We now do that on Maundy Thursday, when we particularly remember the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. We move the communion table down and put chairs in the sanctuary so that, as far as possible, we can sit round the table. And once a month we have an evening communion service with the congregation sitting in these communion seats. People find it very moving.
What may surprise people about your role?
The variety of different things I do, and the amount of work that comes my way. When I had been here for a year or so I was invited to the Senior Citizens to talk about being a country vicar.
I took along a flipchart with a list of the various jobs that I did, which range from preparing and taking funerals to writing magazine articles, preparing sermons and services to chairing meetings, acting as a school Governor to visiting people at home, running a youth group to answering letters, preparing people for weddings to advising people on gravestones, organising service plans to visiting parents who want their children baptised, and all this while also taking several services each week and preaching at most of them.
It didn’t seem exceptional to me. I’d been a vicar for fifteen years in the Midlands and got used to it. But after I’d run through the list there was silence and then one man said, ‘Do you do all that?’
The answer was, of course, ‘Yes’. And I also do things in the diocese, and for other groups of people who might invite me as a speaker or a contributing writer.
What is your favourite thing about St Mary’s Church?
The people. The building is fascinating, steeped in history and has been a place of prayer for centuries. I enjoy that, and appreciate it, but the pleasure I get from the empty building is tiny compared to meeting there with people of all ages on a Sunday morning to sing, pray and worship God together.