Priest and Parish on the move

Rev. Sue wrote this letter in November, 2015, for our parish magazine, 'Newslink', explaining what the future holds for her and for St Faith's

Dear Friends in Christ

I’m sitting down to write this having just announced that I’ve been appointed Team Rector of the Parish of the Holy Trinity in East Ham – it’s been announced in both parishes this morning, and – in the modern way! –on Facebook! 

I remember writing when I arrived in February 2014 about the boxes being almost unpacked in the Vicarage – and feeling as though everything was still swirling around as I began work here after some very unusual and difficult circumstances for the Parish, and a very fast move for us as a family! 

Looking back – and it isn’t quite two years now, and will be just over two years when we move – there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.  Part of my role description when I came was to enable St Faith’s to heal after some bruising and difficult experiences for all concerned, and to prepare for pastoral reorganization.  At a recent Away Day, I asked the PCC the extent to which they felt St Faith’s has recovered.  The responses varied – I asked them to put a number on it – from 25% - 75% - the average turned out at 56%, which is actually about where I’d put it – not nowhere, but still some way to go.  What has come out into the open – and I think it is good that it has been voiced  – is that there are still quite high levels of fear, and still mistrust of the Diocesan authorities.  The latter I have taken up – because, basically, as I’ve said many times, the Church of England is an Episcopal Church, and the Diocesan structure is that within which we all must work.  There is a profound need for reconciliation, and in these last few months, part of my work is to enable it to happen.

As for fear – ‘fight or flight’ – reactions – are a very normal part of our human make up.  However, part of our task as Christians is to have some discipline about them, to refuse, almost to let them get the better of us, and to avoid acting out of them.  When we act out of fear, we invariably do not show our best side!  ‘Do not be afraid’ – it is a phrase that occurs 67 times in the Bible in the NRSV translation.  Most often, it is said to people who are actually really very afraid: amongst them, Hagar, cast out into the desert with her infant son; Moses, about to confront Pharaoh; the widow of Nain, who thinks she is about to die of hunger; Mary, of course, whose unexpected and scandalous pregnancy would have been cause for Joseph to have her put to death; and tthe fearful disciples who cannot yet see the reality of the Resurrection.  So – do not be afraid – one of your tasks in the months to come as we prepare for my departure, and beyond it, is to choose to be shaped by hope and not by fear.  Hope, of course, is precisely not certainty.   It is, however, the shape of the Gospel – ‘trust in things that are uncertain, and the assurance of what is not seen’ (Hebrews 11.1).  Not certainty then – but openness to the future with assurance.  And of course, the assurance comes from our faith in a God who is relentless love, and who raised Jesus from the dead.  To be a disciple means to be willing to be open to the future, to be prepared to see the God who sent his Son into the world out of love and who raised him from the dead out of love also at work in making the future, our future – and ourselves as called to join in the task!

In concrete terms, I will continue to work with the PCC, Waterloo Group Council, congregation and Diocese towards a Team Ministry in Waterloo, and to think through what the post that goes with that pastoral reorganisation looks like.  And in very practical terms, I will work with the Wardens, PCC and ministry team to ensure that the life of St Faith’s, liturgical, pastoral, social and evangelistic goes on as smoothly as possible until an appointment is made. The Waterloo Group Council on Saturday discussed the post – as did the PCC before them – and those discussions will come back to the PCC, so be reassured – your representatives are there to represent your views.  I will in due course bring some of those discussions directly to the congregation too.  But all the parishes were of one mind on Saturday that, whoever is appointed to the post, he or she AND all God’s people, AND the Bishop and his officers will ideally all feel that this is the person called to this role.  This is how I feel about East Ham; it is how I felt about what was always an Interim Role, in unusual circumstances here; and it is my fervent prayer for whoever God is calling here.  You can do your part by also commending this whole situation to God in prayer.

And please pray for Tony, Joe and me, too.  In a short time, those boxes will be coming out and being packed again!  When I arrived, I wrote about Ian Bradley’s book, ‘Colonies of Heaven.’  However at home we may feel, we are always in exile, always pilgrims on earth until we find our eternal home in God.

We are always temporary residents, recipients of hospitality. In fact, this idea is part of the meaning of the word ‘paroikos’ from which we get the word ‘parish’:  the parish, then, constantly creates and forms us as the people of God as we journey on. Those of us who are priests in parishes are also constantly formed in our priestly ministry by the people of God in the parish in which we serve: every parish priest is taught what it means to be a priest by their parish – and, in many ways, it has been my experience at St Faith’s that has given me the experience and confidence to apply for a post like that at East Ham.

So, as the preparations of both parishes, and of my family and I begin to gather pace, my prayer for all of us is that we will go on journeying as God’s pilgrim people, witnessing, as we have done on this day of the Feast of Christ the King, to the glory of his peaceable kingdom, until it comes:

These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
And dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims
And still they were seeking the city of God.

With my love and prayers

November 22nd, 2015

Here is Sue's bulletin written in February, 2016, as she approached the end of her ministry here
Here is the announcement of her appointment from her new parish