Where to begin? Since setting foot in St Oswald’s on Advent Sunday 2016 as an ordinand in trainingso much has happened along the road of faith and ministry. I thank God with all my heart that He called me to make this journey. Every journey has summit moments and valley lows; sunny days and grey skies; and, if we’ve never made it before, a surprise around every corner and an element of the unknown. My journey is no exception! I’ve reached my destination as far as my training curacy is concerned. The Church of England sees fit to let me loose! Thank you, God!
Allow me to reminisce a while………….….There was breakfast in a clerical collar for the first time on the morning of my ordination as Deacon in Chester Cathedral. When I woke that morning itfelt like my Wedding day. A day of unspeakable joy! And then a year later I’m there again, this time to be ordained priest. And tosee so many of our Church family there cheering me on was so generous and affirming. My ordinations were summit days!
And then I was floating on air as I presided as a priest at my first Holy Communion in St Oswald’s. Our church family of Holy Trinity, St John’s, St Oswald’s and my home church of St Martins all gathered. Even bell ringers came from St Martins. I shall never be able to thank you all enough for how you marked the occasion. These summit days made bearable the valley lows. And there have been moments of deep sadness, not least the funerals of parishioners I had come to know and love as their curate. But what a privilege to commend them to their Maker. By contrast there were the sunny days of baptisms………….tears too but this time from the bewildered babe in arms. Again, sheer joy and a privilege to be part of another’s adventure of faith. ‘What’s the weather today?’ we would sing at Rainbow Rhymes in High St Church every Friday.
How I have loved being with those toddlers– a breath of fresh air! Who said that children are the Church of the future? They are the Church of today! I will always keep Bickerton school prayer in my heart too, picturing those little pray-ers, hands together and eyes tightly closed. By contrast I have been enriched by the wisdom of those of riper years. And home visits to parishioners, celebrating Holy Communion together – will they ever know how much these visits were a blessing to me? And the bible study groups and the film studies that kept my reservoirs topped up, with much laughter along the way as well as spiritual food for thought and fellowship. In all the busyness there have been those precious moments of silence and stillness , just me and God in church with the door closed. And then what of the sublime times of worship – my first Midnight Mass as a priest; Holy Week when to the sound of St Oswald’s choir singing Allegri’s Miserere I was lifted to another place; or simple worship with the faithful when just 2 or 3 gathered in His name but we felt the whole company of heaven with us.
Thank you Malpas, Threapwood and Bickerton for accompanying me on this important stretch of my journey. We’ve been companions on the road and for that I shall be forever grateful. As the sun sets on my curacy and rises on the next exciting phase in the life of your community and its churches, I pray that you will know the hand of God guiding you forward on the wind of His Spirit. God speed, my friends, and thank you for having me.
The grace and peace of the Lord be with you always, Revd Helen
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