The End of the Beginning

Two congregations had come together in St Mary's on January 9th, 2013,  to witness the licensing and installation of our new vicar:
four days later, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, two congregations came together in goodly numbers
at St Faith's for the Sung Eucharist to mark the start of Fr Simon's ministry in the United Benefice.
The service included the renewal of our baptismal views - and the celebration of Ruth Winder's Significant Birthday,
marked by flowers at the lectern and wine and cake at the back of church.

Making an entry: the tail entry of the sanctuary party

The renewal of baptismal vows: crowding around the font to pray and to be sprinkled

Applause all round as Revd Denise presents a birthday bouquet to Ruth: daughter and granddaughter look on

The Flower Lady

At the end of the service, the cross leads the procession to the back of church

More tea, vicar...?

Licensed to Thrill?
Impressions of an Installation

This writer has witnessed, and indeed often  been closely involved in, a number of interregnums (interregnae?) since the one following the departure of Fr William Hassall many years ago. The one from which we just thankfully emerged was blessedly brief: from Fr Neil’s installation at Bushey at the end of last July to January 9th is under five and a half months. Scarcely had we settled into the routine of being without an incumbent than the process of profile writing and advertising began, and very soon after that rumours of a possible – nay probable – appointment began to circulate. And then it was almost time for the Great Announcement – and soon the fun and games of getting ready to greet our new vicar. The rest, as they say, is, a few days after January 9th, is almost history. The church website carries pages of pictures of the happenings at the induction (sorry, licensing!): these extra words are an impression of the evening.

Since Fr Neil (first vicar of the United Benefice) had been inducted at St Faith’s, Fr Simon elected to use St Mary’s, and our sister church played host to a goodly number of both congregations, visitors and representatives of other churches and organisations. The first thing perhaps to be said about the service was that it was significantly shorter than previous such events. The liturgy had been updated, rewritten and simplified and the end product, despite the obligatory legal and diocesan processes, seemed more friendly, relaxed and informal.

Part of the reason for this informality was the fact that, owing to the illness of Archdeacon Ricky Panter, some promotions and transfers were called for. Area Dean Roger Driver was Archdeacon for the day, and his deputy, Tom Rich, stepped up to become Area Dean. All of this prompted Fr Simon to reassure us that he was the real thing and no substitute, and set the tone for the evening’s proceedings.

From the church website you can access the service order for the evening. There was the entry of crucifer, choir, readers, clergy, officials and incumbent-elect, and then the sequence of processes whose purpose was to turn The Revd Dr Simon John Tibbs into our priest-in-charge. The use of this latter term, despite its aura of impermanence, is standard practice in our Diocese - and doubtless others as well – in these days of falling congregations and incumbents and the need to close churches or combine livings: it carries no particular message for St Faith’s and St Mary’s at this time. Indeed, Fr Dennis recently won from Archdeacon Ricky Panter the admission that the familiar term of Vicar was acceptable and in any case impossible to eradicate in common parlance!

And so, as the order of service made clear, we worked our way through what was a legal ceremony and an act of worship. Our almost-vicar was presented to the Bishop of Warrington by our four churchwardens and a patron. The Bishop preached eloqunetly to us, and the large and impressive augmented choir sang splendidly an Elgar anthem aptly entitled ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me’. Thus encouraged, Fr Simon swore oaths of allegiance to the Crown and obedience to the Bishop before agreeing to toe the line doctrinally and liturgically. Thus reassured, Bishop Richard formally Licensed Fr Simon and anointed him for office.

The Ministry Team came forward, and all PCC members present stood to offer support and receive a blessing, after which the Archdeacon-substitute led our new vicar to his stall and Installed him.  Assorted worthies, clerical and lay, then stepped up to welcome Fr Simon, before more worthies brought up a map (in case he was uncertain of his whereabouts), water, bread and wine. With the service drawing to an end, young people led the prayers, and it was time for the episcopal blessing. During the recessional hymn, the procession moved to the back of St Mary’s for the final symbolic actions. The Bishop placed the hand of the ‘new minister’ on the door, before, in an extravagant and satisfyingly loud gesture, the vicar flung wide the doors to symbolise the church’s readiness to reach out to our parishes.

The refreshments beckoned at the end of a splendid act of worship, which successfully combined formality with a degree of fun, and provided the perfect launch pad for a new ministry full of promise and anticipation. The rest is, for the time being, silence – apart from the heartfelt welcome to Fr Simon (and his dog Poppy!) and the assurance of our loyalty and prayers in the new chapter about to be written in the story of the United Benefice.

Chris Price

The first page of pictures

The second page of pictures

Fr Simon's introduction page

The licensing service order