I was 67 when we got the call to move to Oxford.
I am supposed to be slowing down, but I’m speeding up!
Many of my colleagues and friends who have been in church ministry are now retired and enjoying life in their mortgage free retirement property by the sea, enjoying country walks with the wife and the dog, cooking great food from the Jamie Oliver “how to cook wholesome and nourishing food in 10 minutes” recipe book, and doing the occasional guest preaching slot, picking their best sermons and favourite illustrations without all the demands of church leadership.
But not me.
There’s something in me that always wants to take the toughest route, the most difficult journey, the more challenging adventure!
I’m not saying that this is an attribute, it’s extremely annoying at times. Why me?
As they used to say in the old days, “Steve, you’re making a rod for your own back!”
And now, on top of all that, I’ve landed my toughest assignment yet! Taking on two parish churches in rural Buckinghamshire and becoming a traditional vicar – right out of my comfort zone!
What will my children think?
They already know I’m a little crazy, but this assignment is in a different league. This is dad stepping into unknown territory. After all these years of “radicalness”, he’s finally flipped.
Will they think I have lost my marbles?
Have I finally entered into the alien zone of planet Zorg? I know what they’re are thinking:
“These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilisations. To go where no man has gone before!”K. I know I’m being over dramatic! But that’s how it felt at the time.
These reflections contain an account of my personal journey during the first three years as Team Vicar with charge of two delightful rural churches, Holy Cross & St Mary, Quainton and All Saints, Oving.
We often fall into the trap of approaching life with pre-conceived ideas and mis-conceptions about people and situations that we’ve never really encountered. And all this is often driven by the media.
The only encounter I ever really had with rural church was watching the Vicar of Dibley on TV. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s the way it really is, but you can understand why I was worried – and intrigued.
The fact is that the people I have come to know and love in these beautiful villages are nothing like the people of Dibley!
I learn from them in so many ways, and have come to appreciate God working in the most unlikely places and through people who give so much to the community.
Stay with me and I’ll share with you many of the things I have discovered – mistakes made, lessons learned, and victories won!
Along the way I discover some important truths about myself and how to be effective as a priest in rural ministry. I discover that what I thought were my strengths, are actually weaknesses in this new assignment.
I learn lessons as my preconceived ideas about the traditional Anglican church are shot out of the water. I am educated into the value of real community and take a dip into the waters of choral Evensong.
Peoples’ names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) – you know who you are!
Let’s get started.