As a place for updates or reflections, I accept my blog has been fairly useless until now. Following one update since taking on the role of Pastoral Assistant I’ve been almost entirely silent.. This short update should bring things back up to date, and if you’re a praying sort of person I hope you might say one or two for me after reading it.
Since September my role has been as varied as it has been exhausting. From being present at all the outreach things St. Michael’s does – Book Swap, Film Club, monthly community lunches, etc.. to getting into the local schools, the community hub, representing the Church on a range of local secular, Eccumenical and Anglican organisations and more.
The most important part of the job has been the best training for priesthood, because it essentially sums up what I think priesthood is all about – ‘being there’. The most important moments of the last six months have been the unexpected, the surprising encounters you have when you put yourself at God’s disposal and make yourself available, and He works through you to help people around you.
To keep everything balanced, and so that the busyness doesn’t send me totally insane (only a little bit), the days are all based in the routing of the Offices (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Compline) and the Daily Mass. The Daily Mass is usually said at the mother Church, All Saints. Working closely with All Saints – but with my St. Michael’s hat on – has taught me much about how many different Churches can be unique individuals, yet part of a wider family within a parish or benefice.
Meanwhile I’ve continued to plod along the discernment pathway to ordination. I was passed on by the Diocesan Assessors in early December, and the Bishop of Tewkesbury (acting as the Bishop of Gloucester) has since met with me, and agreed to sponsor me to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel. I’ll be heading to Ely from 13th-15th April for that.
And finally a word about the coming few months. This Thursday, 5th February, Fr Iain Forbes – my Vicar – will be going into hospital for a heart operation on the 6th. He has been advised (with a relatively positive prognosis) that he will need to rest for at least three months, before returning to the Vicarage.
We have no other active priests currently attached to the parish, and although we should be able to cover most Sunday services and many weekday ones, for a vibrant parish this will be a real blow. My role will largely be to keep the routine of prayer, which acts as the heartbeat of the parish, continuing over the coming months. I’ll be saying the Offices across both Churches (morning at St. Michael’s, evening at All Saints’), and as often as possible weekday Masses will be covered. Where that is not possible the plan is that I will be leading Holy Communion from the Reserved Sacrament. This is distinctly *not* filling the gap, there is a great difference between that service and a Mass, but where no cover is available it will ensure that there isn’t a gap – and that the Blessed Sacrament continues to exist at the very core of the parish.
With Lent, something both Churches throw themselves into head first, there will be more things than usual happening that need cover – confirmation classes, Lent Lunches, Lent Groups, a Quiet Day, Holy Hours, Stations of the Cross… And a packed Holy Week schedule that ought to carry the tagline ‘If you produce less than two Kleenex boxes worth of tears you get your offering back.’ I hasten to add that I won’t be alone in all this, and many members of the parish are stepping up, filling in, and ensuring that the parish continues to punch above its weight and, above all, provide centres of prayer that touch thousands of lives.
Again, therefore, if you’re a praying person I’d greatly appreciate them for myself, both in this role and my wider vocation, for Fr Iain Forbes and a successful recovery, and for the whole parish. Thank you (and I will try and blog a little more over the coming weeks/months!).