It is said that we tend to undervalue that with which we are most familiar but in our small parish (about 150 inhabitants) thanks to the foresight of the Diocese and especially the vision of one Archdeacon, we have learned afresh the importance of the traditional parish system which has, for centuries, given the church a foothold in every community. For the last three years, we and the other church in our benefice have had a Curate in Charge. Being a priest is her second career, she was deputy headteacher in a local school until she decided that there was other work for her to do. The Diocese not only realised that mature “students” have much to offer in ministry but that their training needs to be individually tailored. So when Sally joined us she was not fully qualified and we were designated as a “training parish”. She was able to do almost everything, sadly a large number of funerals, but (initially) not preside at the Eucharist or perform marriages.
Consequently, we had the benefit of lots of different priests coming to our weekly service (yes, a service every Sunday). Since last summer Sally has been fully qualified and has overseen a consistent rise in the numbers attending church each Sunday as well as taking part in all village activities. We have a Soup and Roll lunch, in the church once a month on a Saturday and last week 30 attended (very few regular churchgoers) including two new families to the village with 5 children under 6 and £555.00 was sent to the DEC Ukraine Appeal. We are learning afresh that community really matters and after all the two great commandments are to love God and our neighbour and those orders remain uppermost in our minds at all times. A parish is a small enough entity to enable people to feel they belong and can make a contribution as well as gaining strength from a shared purpose.
My fellow churchwarden and I have always felt that we must have a service every Sunday and the church open every day, especially in a village such as ours which has no other public building. Having such an inspirational leader as Sally who has been allowed to use and develop her talents has made us appreciate the unique strength of a Parish. It is from the roots of an organisation that lasting growth is made, and it seems to me that as we try to follow in the steps of “The Carpenter of Nazareth” it is by interacting and caring for ALL parishioners, church attenders or not, that we honour the two great commandments.