MAGAZINE: Looking back and giving thanks

MAGAZINE: Looking back and giving thanks

This Sunday it was announced that Nikolaj Christensen, Curate of Iffley since 2019, has been designated as the next Rector of Wantage Downs. He and his family expect to move to the Rectory in East Hendred in October. They will miss everyone in Rose Hill, Donnington, and Iffley, but are looking forward to getting to know the people of their new benefice. Below you can read Nikolaj’s latest piece in the Parish Magazine.

From the Curate’s House. Iffley Parish Magazine, June 2022.

The most obvious aspect to the life of St Mary’s Church is the public services that happen every Sunday. But in addition, there are smaller groups of people that meet during the week to pray together, to delve deeper into discussions of faith, and simply to have a stronger sense of community with one another. I was recently asked to come along to one of these groups to share about my own life story as a person of faith and as someone who has been called into full-time work in the church. It prompted me to reflect once again on the mysterious ways along which God often leads us.

I am someone of pure farming stock whose grandparents were all born in the same small parish in rural Denmark. I grew up in a parsonage in an even more remote Danish village. I’m still not sure how I’ve ended up making my home in Oxfordshire. On top of that, I don’t quite understand why of all the churches in all the towns in all the world, the perfect person for me to marry walked into the same one as me. And having cycled past St Mary’s precisely once in my life, it had never once crossed my mind that I might end up starting out in ordained ministry here. But I’m immensely thankful for all these things. Including the farming stock bit.

My family taught me above all else that however humble we may be outwardly, we have a heavenly Father who counts us all as his precious children. My parents made it clear that there was nothing I could do that would make me any more or less loved, whether by them or by God. Parenting experts say that when children know they have a secure home base, they feel more able to venture out and explore the world beyond the home. And that is precisely what happened. Here I am, 560 miles away across the sea from my childhood home.

The invitation from the Bible study group also got me thinking back to when some people had the silly idea of trusting a 17-year-old boy with leading his own youth group. Some of the same people later asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a priest. It’s probably good that this idea didn’t come from me.

Skipping forward again, I cannot express how grateful I am to those who have received myself and my young family into their hearts these last three years in the parish of Iffley, Rose Hill, and Donnington. There will be a time for farewells later ­­– but as I enter the final phase of my time as Curate here, it’s not too early to say ‘thank you’ to a few key people.

First and foremost, I am thankful to Andrew McKearney for inviting me to come here and for mentoring me as I took my initially quite cautious first steps as an ordained minister. Thank you also to Sarah for being a steadfast support not just for Andrew but for all of us. And I am deeply impressed by the selfless service of those who have served as churchwardens during my time here: Maureen, Tom, and Mark – and Sarah Beaver who we are now welcoming as churchwarden alongside Tom, elected at the annual meeting this past month.

Speaking of selfless service, who could forget my clergy colleagues Graham and David – but personally I would like to thank them both for the wisdom they have imparted to me from many years of ordained ministry. And this parish would be nothing without Janet, our administrator and music director.

But why stop there when I could mention the Eco Church group, the magazine committee, all those involved in Community Cupboard, and so many others. I do want to mention my friends from two important community groups outside the church: Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon and Rose Hill Community Network. They do fantastic work. Join them – their details are in the last pages of the magazine [or here].

To subscribe to the Parish Magazine, please contact Michael Sinclair,, 01865 438251. Subscriptions cost only £5.00 per year for 12 monthly issues, including free delivery within the parish.