This is the first ‘First Word’ following the retirement of Fr Stuart, and so officially these parishes are now in a vacancy period while a new priest is sought. Stuart and Susan’s huge contribution to the life of the churches and villages of this group over more than 30 years was rightly celebrated on the weekend of the 28 the November, and after a splendid service almost 120 people joined them for lunch in Narborough Community Centre, and gave thanks for them, and wished them well. We wish them every happiness in their retirement, although I am not alone in wondering how Stuart will interpret the idea of rest?!
The Church is entering the period before Christmas which we call Advent, a period of waiting on the arrival of the Son of God. It is a time that calls for reflection, prayer, and above all patience. Waiting for an appointment of a new Rector will involve the self-same things, and I commend the idea of a holy and prayerful waiting as our model. Too often people worry in vacancies, especially when they have said goodbye to a much loved and long-serving parish priest and his family. I want to suggest we model our waiting on hopefulness, trusting that our prayers will find an answer, and that God will guide those whose duty it is to take part in this process.
After Christmas the church enters a period we call Epiphany, from the Greek for ‘making things known’, and I have found during the now 7 vacancies that I have been involved with, that very often during these times of waiting much is made clearer, revealed. I pray that our vacancy can have a hopeful spirit, and that we both pray for and accept that we will learn things about this group, about what we need and what God intends, and that all of this is good and necessary. Like Advent, Epiphany isn’t a passive time; we aren’t called upon to wait in the spirit of passing time, but to engage, likewise we are called upon to embrace the things made known to us, and use them in the work we have to do before our new Rector is appointed.
During this time the wardens of each church are legally in charge of them, and I have committed to making sure that the services, and all aspects of pastoral care remain as best as I am able continuous with what we have been able to do. I know we follow a very fine example, and it isn’t going to be easy, but I look forward to being a small part of this process and of us all trying to make it a positive and enriching time.
With blessings for Christmas and the New Year