It is lovely to be joining this community as Rector at this time of year. I grew up in Taunton and have so many fond memories of Christmases past, particularly Boxing Day by the sea in Lyme or Sidmouth! Since then I have lived in many different parts of the country, but now I am looking forward to coming ‘home’. Mick and I are really pleased to be coming to Chard and to Combe, Wambrook and Whitestaunton and getting to know each of your communities, hearing your stories and being part of your lives.
Getting to this point has been a long and not always straightforward journey. I spent over twenty years in secondary education teaching in London and in Suffolk, and I also managed a Debt Advice Centre in Cambridge. I always thought that ordained ministry was for other more ‘religious’ people, but God, it seems, had other ideas! I nearly left it too late to respond to my sense of calling, but since taking the plunge I have been blessed and encouraged by so many people. I have come to realise that being ‘religious’ has got nothing to do with it. What matters is how we live our lives, both individually and as a community. It is about kindness, generosity and tolerance, things which we all lack at times, but also things we can learn from one another.
I know that I will have a lot to learn and that there will be many new experiences for me to take in. However, I am confident in the God who called me, and has called me here. I also know that I am called to be a person of prayer, and that all of you will be in my prayers from the very beginning.
I am beginning my ministry among you in the season of Advent. Advent is all about looking forward. It is about waiting for the coming of the Christ child and waiting for his kingdom to be established fully here on earth. I am also looking forward. I look forward to getting to know you all, to walking alongside you and seeing where we can, together, further the building of Christ’s kingdom within our communities and beyond.
I am also looking forward to leading several Christmas services both at St Mary’s and in the villages. I love Christmas and everything that goes with it, down to the smallest details. However, most of all I love Christmas because we celebrate a God who rolled up his sleeves and became human. We celebrate a God who was not afraid to experience life in all its contradiction its messiness and its frustration, as well as its joy, its wonder and its hopefulness. We can know that whatever our own experiences, God has been there and is with us through them all. That seems like something to celebrate.
May I wish all of you, and all of your loved ones, a very blessed and happy Christmas.