'Called to Serve'

The stories of the ordinands of St Faith's, Great Crosby

Margaret Dixon (nee Goodwin)

I was brought to St Faith’s by my parents, George and Muriel Goodwin who were regular and committed attendees of the church. I was baptised by Fr Hassall when a couple of months old after which, I was told, he had a stroke (I am assuming that the two events were unconnected!)

My father was the sacristan of the church for twenty years and I learnt much from our Friday evening trips to church to prepare for the Sunday services; polishing silver, cleaning candles, laying out vestments, counting wafers and decanting wine were the regular jobs but other more seasonal variations gave me an opportunity to learn much and develop a life-long love of liturgy and the understanding of why we do what we do as part of the worship ritual.

When I was about 14 years old Fr Peter Goodrich asked me to take on the role of assistant sacristan that involved caring for the linen (Dorothy and Lilian Carter washed and ironed it), changing frontals and deputising for Dad if he was not available.

I helped him to train the new servers and learnt the maxim that `you keep your eye on your partner and follow what they do so that whatever happens it looks right!’ He is the only person I have ever known who could catch a fainting server and replace them with another without people noticing the change! I was delighted that I was allowed to become the first woman server in St Faith’s and had the opportunity to serve alongside my dad on a few occasions.

I gradually began to feel a sense of calling to the ministry but at that stage women could only become deaconesses. I was very fortunate to be sent to talk to Deaconess Thelma Tomlinson who was based at the cathedral and was in charge of women’s ministry. She spent many hours talking to me and encouraged me in my sense of vocation. For several years I was part of the team who put on a daily summer holiday scheme in the cathedral chapter house that was attended by local children from Toxteth.

I also attended meetings with women ministers across the diocese and was present on a very emotional and inspiring occasion when a woman priest from America presided at a house communion. This was a powerful experience of feeling the sense of God presence in that time of a group of women worshipping together and led by a woman.

Thelma advised me to gain some experience in the world before following my vocation and so I worked for the Bootle Deanery Social Work Committee and in Warrington for a couple of years mainly as a volunteer. I then went to Ilkley College to train as a Youth and Community worker, taking up a position as a temporary Assistant Youth and Community Worker in Mixenden, Halifax. I felt fulfilled in this role and remained there 5 years. A year after my father died I moved to High Wycombe to work as a school-based youth worker, where I met my husband, Paul. I remained there for three years and then took up a post as Rural Youth Worker for Wycombe which involved supporting communities in starting small youth groups.

There was a difficult period on my faith journey around this time when my Mum died and I had a miscarriage. Experiencing three great losses in my life in a period of 7 years and not being able to find a supportive church community at the time meant I drifted from regularly attending until I was expecting my twins and endeavoured to find a church in which I could worship.

I gave up youth work just before Will and Hannah were born in 1995. A few years later I started to study part-time for a degree in archaeology – a completely new direction from anything I had done before. During my degree and up until 2014 (17 seasons) I worked on a summer project at Silchester in Hampshire as the archaeological photographer. This fitted in perfectly with my work in the library service and in a local primary school. Although the archaeology would seemingly have little to do with a sense on calling for the ministry it did have a huge impact on me being open to respond to that call as I felt less daunted by the academic rigour of theological training.

I belonged to the local church in Great Missenden and had become a server, taking on the role of sacristan when in about 2008 I again felt that God was calling me to be a priest – something that was now possible. A series of interviews followed with vocations advisers, DDO and bishop before I was sent on a selection conference at Ely. I was fortunate in being selected for training and attended Rippon College, Cuddesdon as a non-residential student. This enabled me to continue working at school and looking after the family while going to college one day a week, with regular residential weekends. After the three years I was ordained in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford in July 2011 and licensed to serve in the United Benefice of Ellesborough, the Kimbles and Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire. It was while I was there that I experienced a varied ministry in two rural parishes and a semi-urban one. I helped to develop the ministries to young families, the local school and working on a project to offer baptism families a course that helped to explain the promises that were making on behalf of their child.

Ellesborough’s claim to fame is that it is the parish that has Chequers’ in the parish. So imagine my surprise when I turned up to preach my very first Christmas sermon in the benefice to see the Prime Minister and his family sat in the congregation.

In July 2014, I was interviewed for and appointed to be the part-time NS Associate Minister at St Mary’s Church, North Leigh in the Deanery of Witney. Although there is a vicar, Simon, he has responsibility for two other churches - a village church at South Leigh and a growing congregation at Cogges Church in part of Witney. This means that I have full responsibility for the parish and all that goes on. I also work 1 day a week in the school as the Community Link Worker. This role enables me to continue my love of working in education, with children, influencing the Christian ethos and heading up various initiatives. We run a fortnightly St Mary’s Lunch for a group of 10 children across the school that allows the children to discuss various things, allowing them to learn to listen to one another and to share. I also run a weekly lunch-time Bible Club that looks at different Bible stories in greater depth using crafts and other activities. Members of the church have also started to support me in leading a fortnightly ‘Open the Book’ assembly that tells and acts out a Bible story and these sessions have run alongside other assemblies on Christian values, and aspects of the liturgical year.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my ministry and despite coming back to it later in life (God is patient but determined) I feel I am in the place He wants me to be. Looking back, although I have had a varied life with differing career paths and experiences they have all been part of the journey of faith. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful Christian community at St Faith’s, the love of liturgy and the importance of the Eucharist and the part that the people played in my long journey to the priesthood. Fr Peter Goodrich’s encouragement of young people, giving them responsibility and roles within the church certainly had a huge influence on my continued commitment and eventual life here in North Leigh. 

Story uploaded 9/4/2016


The list of  ordinands