On Sunday 26 February an important announcement was made for me and my family, as well as a number of people we don’t yet know. It was announced that subject to the usual stuff (CRB, blah blah blah), I’ve been appointed as the Vicar of Allesley Park and Whoberley, on the outskirts of Coventry.
This is a big thing – Liz pointed out that this was the biggest decision we’ve made since deciding to get married! And it’s all happened so fast! I met with the Bishop of Stafford, Geoff Annas on 4th January who said he was happy for me to start looking for a post as a vicar. Two days later I saw the role for Allesley Park and Whoberley advertised in the Church Times. I completed the application form and by the end of January learned that I had been shortlisted for interviews, which would take place on 6th and 7th February. We were offered the post late that same evening and said yes on the morning of the 9th February. All this happened within the space of just over 5 weeks, which is incredibly quick! It has actually taken us by surprise.
It’s big, because it feels like the culmination of a calling I’ve discerned since I was around 16 – I knew in the very core of my being that God was calling me to be a vicar. Almost fifteen years on, through university, work in a bank, theological college and a curacy, I’m nearly there – barring any disasters, my family and I will move in the summer to begin our new life in Coventry – it’s been a long time coming and I can scarcely believe I’ve got to this point.
Needless to say this is a big thing, because it involves uprooting my little family. Although Liz and I feel ready for the move and Isabelle’s probably too young to feel affected by this, Alicia has been very happy in Werrington – we moved here when she was only 8 weeks old, so it’s all she knows. She’s the delight of many at church and has made a few little friends in our local community. How will she feel to be starting all over again, when she walks into a church building and suddenly the people she knows and loves won’t be there any more? How long will it take her to make new friends and to feel at home in this new place?
The good news is that St. Christopher’s is very much a family church; in the main morning congregation, out of an average Sunday attendance of 110, 28 are children. There is children’s work for all ages, including a crèche attended by a number of pre-school children – the girls won’t be alone, and vitally, neither will Liz. Sunday morning services are tough when you have to look after two children single-handedly and there’s no crèche. This has been the situation in Werrington and Wetley Rocks, where I’ve been serving my curacy. It means that you concentrate more on the children than on the service. I’ve rarely been there to help. I’m either leading (and preaching and leading prayers and sung worship!) or I’m at St. John’s, the other church where I’ve been serving. I’ve only looked after the girls during a service once or twice (and never alone) and have found it exhausting and that all I can concentrate on is keeping our girls happy. Thankfully St. Philip’s has recently begun to run a crèche, which means that Liz has been able to focus more on the services.
One of our priorities in discerning the right place to serve as vicar was that the church would be somewhere where Liz and the girls might flourish. I believe that these prayers will be answered by St. Christopher’s. It certainly looks promising!
In searching for a church I had in my mind a mental “tick list” of things I considered non-negotiable. Apart from the crèche and viable children’s work, the others were that the church would be evangelical, that there would be a worship band or leader, and lay participation in services. Allesley Park and Whoberley has all of these – and so much more. The church is growing; it’s been well led in the past (and wonderfully organised!); it’s evidently a loving church; there is a high proportion of people who have active roles in serving; it’s got a great church building which is used well for community outreach; there is a church plant that meets in one of the local schools which has massive potential for growth; the area itself is full of young people – there are 4 primary schools; and perhaps most importantly it’s a church that wants to grow in mission to the local community. All in all it would have been very hard to find a church that fitted me and us so well.
Now the announcement has been made, there’s preparation to do, paperwork to sort, a house to get ready, and work to complete here in Werrington and Wetley Rocks. Got a very full few months to look forward to. Feel very blessed to be stepping out in this calling. I couldn’t think of anything or anywhere else I’d rather be. Counting my many blessings and praising the Lord.