The articles below, as published in our church magazine Newslink, chart in sequence the progress of our Reader, Jackie Parry, on the road that will lead to her ordination.
Where to begin?
Well, I’ve been a Christian ever since I can remember. Even though all my family were staunch atheists, I have always been aware of God in my life. I’ve worshipped here at St Faiths for 30 years, so I think I rather like the place! I love the catholic tradition; the beauty of the liturgy, the spirituality, the acknowledgement and importance given to the sacraments is what sustains and nourishes me. I admit though, that I also enjoy the occasional alternative worship, but my preference has always been that of Anglo Catholicism.
As you know, I was lucky enough to have a placement in the cathedral for three months, and during this I became very aware of the variety of ways in which we can worship our Lord. I was struck by the realisation also that, it doesn’t need to be either one or the other, but that these different forms of worship can be held alongside each other. The important factor is that we come together, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, to worship God. For me personally, the beauty and spirituality of the Anglo-catholic tradition and worship is where I feel most at home; with prayer and the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, being the central force of worship. It is what sustains, helps and guides me. Prayer is incredibly important to me also, and I truly believe that God is with us at all times. When we pray we have a special, personal, relationship with Him, and I believe that prayer can bring us tremendous comfort and strength. With this is mind a few years ago, a Christian work colleague and I set up a prayer group in work. Initially we met once a fortnight, but due to request it is now held weekly, during the lunch-break, for 20 minutes. The prayer meeting wasn’t necessarily Christian, but multi-faith in order to welcome people of all faiths and none. However, as the weeks went on, it became very obvious that the only people who attended were Christian and so it became a Christian prayer group, rather than multi-faith, but everyone, whether Christian or not, are still welcome to join us for prayer and quiet reflection.
On the morning of the prayer meeting, I send out an email to regular attendees, as a little reminder as it is very easy to get caught up in the ‘busyness’ of work, and also the members can arrange their work pattern so that they are able to attend. There is also a poster permanently displayed on the prayer room door so that anyone, staff, patients or visitor, who pass by or visit the prayer room, are aware that there is a weekly prayer meeting and they are welcome to come along. We alternate at leading in prayer and are fairly flexible in our approach to worship, because we don’t know who, or how many, might turn up on the day. Occasionally a patient might call in and not speak at all, but simply sit quietly and listen as we pray. And some members of staff might call in as they may have been having a particularly stressful morning and felt that they needed this quiet time to help give them strength and/or comfort, as they continued with their work. Sometimes there might only be one of us there, but prayers are still said for our patients and staff. I recall one particular day a lady asked if she could join us in prayer. She explained that her newborn baby daughter had been very sick, and had been having some major tests to rule out a serious condition. That week she had been told the test results had come back negative and her baby daughter was getting better, and she wanted to give thanks for the excellent news. She named her daughter Grace, because, she told us, it was by the grace of God that her prayers had been answered. It was a very moving experience to sit and pray with her, giving thanks for the happy news.
For about two years I was a volunteer chaplain at Aintree Hospitals. My role was mainly of visiting patients, and occasionally staff, who had requested to receive Holy Communion. Often they simply wanted to chat, but sometimes the patient would be too poorly to take communion, so I would sit with them, maybe hold their hand, and pray quietly. Being with people when they are at their most vulnerable is a very humbling experience, and I believe that simply by ‘being there’ for someone can help bring great comfort and support. I am often moved when someone asks, even when they proclaim not to have any faith, if I will pray for them and sometimes with them. This is surely God’s loving Holy Spirit moving within them and bringing comfort and peace. A little closer to home, as part of my Reader ministry, I have been very involved in visiting baptism families and helping them to prepare for their child’s baptism. It’s a great privilege to be part of this, and I have to say the visits are rarely the same, and I’m sometimes taken aback by the very deep theological questions I’m asked, which I believe, highlights the fact that there are many people who are inquisitive, possibly spiritual, and eager to learn more about Christianity. Perhaps a seed of faith has been planted, and requires a little nurturing to help it grow.
Reader ministry is a blessing to me. Not only am I privileged to share my faith with others through preaching and teaching, but it has also helped my faith and spirituality to grow and deepen. I often say that a person’s journey in faith has a tendency to be rather like a roller-coaster with many twists and turns and up’s and downs. But the awareness of the presence of God, the ability to be able to minister to others, to share the love of God, is a very 20 humbling and worthwhile experience. Throughout my Reader ministry and during my time as a chaplaincy volunteer at Aintree hospitals, I have often been humbled at people’s faith in God, and challenged by those who have no faith at all.
For a long time now I have felt God calling me to ordination. I have occasionally tried to ignore it, but the sense of calling continued to get stronger to the extent I could not ignore it any longer. I discussed this with Fr Neil about three years ago and he suggested I pursued this further, which I did and have been part of the discernment process since then. This involves meeting with various people who will discern my vocation. For the past year I have met with an Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands, Fr Philip, in order to delve deeper into my vocation and discernment and he now feels that I am ready to meet with the Bishop and the Diocesan Director of Ordinands who, following review of references and feedback from Fr Philip, will discern whether or not they are able to sponsor me on to the next phase of the process. If so, then I will be asked to attend the Bishops Advisory Panel (BAP) for further discernment. If I am successful with this, then I will then be able to start training for ordination. I have an interest in chaplaincy, particularly hospital and educational and, if I am able to, I would like to explore this ministry further. It is indeed a privilege to be with people during difficult and vulnerable times, bringing some comfort whilst praying with them, sharing in the holy sacraments, and in the realisation that God is with them at all times. I also believe that young people today are in need of spiritual guidance and support. Bringing God into their life, raising awareness of His never ending love, and helping to nurture their faith at an early age, I believe, would help the youth of today become better adults for tomorrow. Both these areas of chaplaincy are something which I would like to explore further.
Anyone for a BAP?
Jackie Parry gives us the latest news on her ministry training. Go Jackie!
Well, my registration papers (following numerous amendments and updates), Diocesan sponsoring papers, references and my written reflection have all now been sent to Ministry Division prior to my attendance at the Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) which is booked for 23rd – 25th February 2015 at Shallowford House in Staffordshire. My feelings are a mixture of excitement and nerves, but with a firm belief that God will guide me, and those whose role it is to discern me, in exploring my vocation. The Bishops’ Advisory Panel is the national stage in the discernment process, which follows on from the local, i.e. Diocesan, discernment process, which involved various stages of exploration to discern God’s will in a person’s calling/vocation. Apparently, I will be amongst a group of up to 8 candidates who will be assessed over three days by a panel of three Advisers. We will be together for meals and worship, but will be 4 assessed separately by the panel through a variety of single and group activities, pastoral exercises and presentations; however the panel will have previously received a great deal of information which has been provided by our local diocese, so all in all, the advisers can get a good understanding of each person, their experience and vocation. After the candidates have returned home, the panel will meet to discuss their individual reports and assessment, and compile these reports for the Bishop, who has the responsibility for making the decision about whether or not we should enter training.
Hopefully, I will be informed of this decision within a couple of weeks following my attendance at BAP. Sounds scary, but I am looking forward to attending and joining fellow Christians who have also felt God’s call and are exploring where, or what, God is calling us to do. I’ve already met some others who are at various stages in the process, and it is encouraging to see so many people who have heard God’s call and are, at least, exploring what that call could be. I also recently attended an Open Day and met with students who are currently studying on the All Saints’ course, which is where I hope to study if I am accepted for training. It was really good to chat to the students (ordinands) who have first-hand knowledge of the course, how they cope with study, work and ministry, and hear their expectations and hopes for the future. I also attended one of the lectures (preaching and theology) which was excellent!
So, that’s where I am up to at the moment! I’m currently doing a lot of reading in preparation for BAP, and spending more time in prayer and quiet reflection, as I ask God to guide and support me as I journey through this discernment process. But may I also take this opportunity to thank you all for your warm wishes, love and support. It has been truly encouraging and has helped me enormously. Without the love, support and guidance of the family of St Faith’s, the journey so far might have been a lonely one, and so I greatly appreciate your kindness and thank you for your prayers. I recently came across a prayer which really says what is in my heart as I journey through this time of discernment, and so I thought I would share it with you:
Father, I know you love me and have plans for me, but sometimes this can be overwhelming. Show me the way to walk forward one day at a time. May I take heart while I search openly, learn all about the choices, listen to others for advice, and pay attention to my own feelings. By doing these things may I hear your call to live a life that will let me love as only I can, and allow me to serve others with the special gifts which you have given me. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Joyful News for Jackie
Congratulations and prayers to our Reader, Jackie Parry, who has been recommended for ordination training. Jackie will begin her training in the autumn and we will continue to keep her in our prayers as she continues her journey. She writes below.
A few weeks ago I attended the Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) at Shallowford House, just outside Stafford: a beautiful old house surrounded by lovely countryside and well kept gardens, oh yes and a high speed rail link running 20 feet from the door all night long, but that simply added to the experience! The rooms were nice, plenty of space, warm and comfortable beds. I had a lovely view of the garden and chapel from my window, at which I would sit, during the occasional quiet times, for some quiet prayer and reflection. I really enjoyed all the worship in the chapel and particularly the closing service where there was a brilliant homily. There were 14 candidates and 6 advisors and we were divided into 2 groups, with a ‘secretary’ presiding over it all and ensuring everything ran smoothly, which indeed it did, and she was on hand to help and support the candidates and assessors if required. Everyone was lovely, and there was a real sense of camaraderie as we were 3 all on the same path, although many had been on very different journeys. The warmth of the other candidates made the process a real pleasure, we were all rooting for each other and had a good laugh each evening in the bar. This was a time to chat, relax and generally de-stress. It was encouraging to see so many people who had felt called by God and were pursuing their vocation. Even though there was a possibility that some might not be recommended for training at this time, we all agreed that we had, throughout the process and journey, grown closer to God and learnt a lot about ourselves. For us all, our time at BAP was the culmination of years of thinking, praying and exploring a growing sense of calling to the priesthood. A very humbling and exceptional experience, and one that I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to have. This week I met with Rev David Parry, who is the Diocesan Director for Ordinands, to discuss the report on me which the assessors had completed following BAP. It was a good and honest report, and quite amazing how the assessors get to know your personality, strengths and weaknesses, and vocation. I’m delighted to say that I have been given a conditional recommendation for training. This means that the panel have agreed that God is calling me to the priesthood, but they would like me to do some extra study and a placement at another church first, prior to training this September. They feel this will help to prepare me better for training at All Saints College, and I agree that this is a very wise decision. I don’t have all of the details yet, but it’s very exciting, and I can’t wait to start! To say that I’m delighted would be an understatement and yes, I admit to dancing around the lounge when I was given the news! It has been a long journey getting to this point, but I thank God for sticking with me and giving me the patience and strength I needed. And now, on to the next part of the journey….
It’s just a few weeks since I received the wonderful news of my conditional recommendation for training to the priesthood, and after the initial excitement and preparation for BAP, and following my lovely holiday in Australia, things have settled into a quiet routine. I’ve been in discussion with Rev Simon Chesters (Director of Studies at All Saints), Revd David Parry (DDO), Mother Sue and Debbie Ellison (Vocations Officer) who have put together some training for the next few months, which is in agreement with Ministry Division. Sue has kindly leant me some books which will be of interest and I will write a brief report on each; Simon and David both recommended a book regarding leadership, which is the additional pre-training requested from my BAP report. I started reading this whilst on holiday in Australia, much to the amusement of my family as every time they looked at me, they said I had my nose stuck in my Kindle with a notepad, pen and glass of wine close to hand!
During May and June I will attend courses at Sandymount on Leadership and Collaboration, following which Simon and I will meet for a few sessions for discussion/review. I’m still waiting to hear if I’m going to go on a short placement, but as soon as I hear anything, I will let everyone know. The idea is that I will compile a folder with evidence of my studies and, once my pre-training has been completed, this will be sent to Ministry Division for review. I will also meet with an assessor again to discuss the studies I’ve undertaken so that they can ensure I’ve completed the required pre-training.
As you can see, I’ve a busy few months pre-training ahead of me, but this will only help to improve my skills and will be an excellent preparation for the studies when, hopefully, I attend All Saints College later this year.
Jackie Reports Again!
It’s already been 4 weeks since I started on my placement at St Thomas, Ashton in Makerfield, and I’ve already learnt such a lot! When I was first told that my placement was in Ashton in Makerfield, my first thoughts were “why so far?” but it didn’t take me long to realise that this parish was definitely the best place for me to learn all about leadership in the church.
St Thomas is one of two churches built in the grounds of a chapel from circa 1714. The other church is St Luke’s, which is a much more modern building, built across the road from the older church. Their website is http://www.stthomasstluke.org.uk if anyone would like to take a peek and read all about their parish history, as well as much more up to date information.
There is a team ministry here; the incumbent is Rev Jeremy Thomas, Curate - Rev Helen Coffey, who many will remember well, as she did a placement here at St Faith’s (she sends her love and blessings to everyone); OLM - Rev Izzy Schafer and a team of Readers. There are also a large number of lay leaders who are actively involved in the various groups and also take an active role in leading services; a fairly new concept, which is proving extremely effective, and involves using the talents given by God to all people, in order to further His kingdom here on earth; but I will chat about that in much more detail, another time.
My first couple of weeks at St Thomas’ were basically watching and learning, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been more actively involved, attending youth groups, youth leader meetings, team meetings as well as having regular meetings with Jeremy, who is a staunch advocate of lay leadership in the church, which is a positive way forward in leading others to faith.
There are three services on a Sunday: 9:00 Eucharist, 10:45 Family Service and 6:30pm Evening service, the format changing from week to week, i.e. Evening Prayer, Sung Eucharist following the order of Common Worship, BCP Evening Prayer and occasionally with Holy Communion. All are very different services, but beautiful and spiritual in their own way. The early morning and evening services are fairly quiet, attendance approximately 10-20 people. The Family Service is much busier, with an average attendance of approximately 100+ worshippers, including lots of children. This Service is very relaxed with a combination of organist, youth music group, puppet theatre and children’s activities. Yesterday I led the evening Eucharist, up until the Eucharistic prayer, and next week I will be leading the family service, which will be an extremely new experience for me, and the following week I will be leading the morning service, so I’m getting a good experience in leading a variety of services, which is excellent!
All in all, so far, the experience has been a useful and interesting. There have been a few challenges, one of which being that my car decided to become completely un-roadworthy, so the likelihood of getting to and from Ashton in Makerfield seemed an impossibility, but the Christian love and support I’ve been given from both St Thomas’s and St Faith’s has been incredible and I’m now back on the road again with a new little car, and my heartfelt thanks!
I will be at St Thomas’ until mid-July and will then return to St Faith’s & St Mary’s. My next step is completing some written assignments for Rev Simon Chesters (Director of Studies for Ordinands and Readers) and for submitting to Ministry Division, plus a meeting with an assessor to discuss my pre-training thus far and hopefully this will prove satisfactory so that I can start training fully this September at All Saints College.
Blessings to you all, and I look forward to seeing you again in a few weeks.
Whilst the first part of my placement at St Thomas & St Luke’s, Ashton in Makerfield, was mainly observational - lots of note-making, sitting in on meetings and youth groups; the second part was quite a lot busier and was more ‘hands on’. As my Pre-Theological Education (PTE) was to gain greater knowledge of Leadership and Collaboration, Revd Jeremy was keen for me to take an active role in leading services, and patiently encouraged and guided me throughout.
The first Service I led was the Common Worship Eucharist. As this was a Eucharist I wasn’t authorised to lead parts of the service, so I led the first half up to the sacramental section, and then Jeremy took over. It was a small service with approximately 15 in the congregation and was a gentle way of introducing me to leading worship.
My next leadership challenge was the family service (non-Eucharistic) on Sunday at 10:45. This is very different to the morning and evening services, with a much larger congregation of 100+ worshippers ranging from a few weeks old to 80+years. There was a youth music group who played instruments and sang the hymns/songs, and an overhead projector was used instead of service sheets, although these were available if someone preferred to use them. No robes or processions, just very flexible and quite ad-hoc. I led the service throughout, including birthdays and ‘share time’ when I chatted with a very shy little boy and a very lively little girl. I was initially quite nervous about leading this very different style of service, but in fact, once the nerves settled down, I really enjoyed the flexibility and lively nature of the worship. Very different to what I’m accustomed to! The third service I led at St Thomas’s was the morning Said Eucharist, which again was very different to the others with no hymns but did include a sermon. Quiet, peaceful and reflective. I became aware that, although St Thomas’ was one church building, it was flexible and offered and indeed was being used for, different styles of service for different worshipping communities. It made me wonder if we at St Faiths’ could look a little further into this, that is, offering something a little different on occasion, whilst still keeping the beauty and spirituality of our sacrificial Anglo-Catholicism. Just a thought!
On the last day of my placement I led the Morning Eucharist with Rev Izzy presiding, which was very similar to the family worship at St Thomas’, but with a smaller congregation of about 50 people and a lot of giddy children. This was a lovely service, set in a modern church which is used as a hall throughout the week (the altar is hidden behind shutters when not being used as a church) and it had a real sense of fun and faithfulness. I think a lot of the giddiness from the children was excitement as, following the service we were all going to attend Ashton in Makerfield churches annual event of a “Picnic in the Park”. This is where all of the churches in the area, of different denominations, all come together and, well... has a picnic in the local park! We took our own lunch and each church provided catering and/or entertainment of some sort at no cost, e.g. cake tent, tea/coffee tent, coconut stall, puppet theatre, water games (it was a hot day!). The local brass band arrived to entertain us, and there was also a joint prayer service, with a guest speaker, later in the day. All in all, it was a great afternoon, with lots of fun, sun and laughter. A lovely way to finish my placement in Ashton in Makerfield, and my heartfelt thanks go to everyone in St Thomas’ and St Luke’s. It was an excellent placement and I certainly learnt a lot from my experience there.
And now, I’m pleased to be back at St Faith’s and on to the next stage of the process: writing assignments, reports, meeting with the DDO, discussions, feedback and all documentation to be sent to Ministry Division within the next few weeks, followed by a meeting with an assessor to discuss my pre-training which, hopefully, will prove satisfactory so that I can start training fully in September 2015.
I will, of course, keep everyone informed of my progress!
My PTE was a little different to the norm; usually PTE’s can take an average of 12 months, but the assessors from my BAP conference felt I could do this training in 6 months so that, if I satisfied the required criteria, then this would enable me to start training fully in September 2015. David and I initially had a few concerns as this involved a lot of hard work for me, plus working full time, but we also were a little concerned that Ministry Division might not be able to do another assessment in such a short timescale. However, we felt that this was exceptionally thoughtful of Ministry Division to be so accommodating and certainly too good an opportunity to miss, and I felt strongly that, if this was what God wanted me to do, then who am I to say no!
As well as my placement at St Thomas and St Luke’s, Ashton in Makerfield, my PTE (pre theological education) involved attending courses on Leadership and Collaboration (held at Sandymount House…very nice!), one-to-one teaching sessions with the Director of Studies, Rev Simon Chesters, and quite a bit of reading, written assignments and reflection. This was all checked by the DDO (Diocesan Director of Studies) Rev David Parry and, when he was satisfied with the content, David forwarded on this documentation to Ministry Division mid-July and we patiently waited for news on whether or not this work was satisfactory and we waited to hear when the time and date of the appointment with an Assessor was to be.
I really enjoyed studying about leadership and collaboration as well as theology, and I met some lovely people along the way. But the waiting for the results and date of appointment was becoming unbearable!! After a few weeks, a lot of discussion, and still not receiving any information from Ministry Division, David informed me he was going to speak with Bishop Paul and recommend that I should start training, as he was getting concerned that All Saints was due to start soon and we were concerned about missing this. A week later I received a phone call from Debbie Ellison, Vocations Officer, to let me know that she had that morning spoken to Bishop Paul and he confirmed that he was completely satisfied with my PTE and more than happy to recommend I started training in September!
To say that I was over the moon would be an understatement! I received the phone call in work and yes, I danced around my desk much to the amazement of my work colleagues, but who were also delighted with my news.
This was actually it! After a very long journey, with a lot of soul searching, prayer, doubt and confusion, but also surrounded by love and support from my family, friends and church family, it was finally confirmed to me that God had been calling me to ordination and, I could start training in a few weeks! Fantastic! I’m so very pleased, and once again want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this process and continually prayed for me. The love and support I have received has been humbling and encouraging and may I ask that you continue to keep me, and the other ordinands, in your prayers as we all journey together in faith. Thank you.
My other news (although many already know) is that within two days of being told I had been accepted to train for ordination, I also became a grandmother for the first time. My eldest son Edd and his partner Bridie gave me a beautiful granddaughter, Scarlett India Parry, born in Melbourne, Australia, on 28th August 2015. We have ‘skyped’, but I can’t wait to meet her early next year when Edd and Bridie hope to return to Crosby, and St Faith's, for Scarlett’s baptism. I thank our Lord for Scarlett’s safe arrival and pray for her health and happiness. What a week full of blessings!
And now begins the next part of my journey, both as an ordinand and as a grandmother. Exciting!
Feature uploaded September 14th, 2015. Watch this space for further bulletins.
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