Letter in the November edition of the Iffley Parish Magazine
The community of people who make up St Mary’s Iffley is going through a time of transition; as a consequence, I’ve begun to call this period ‘Looking to the future of Iffley parish’.
There are three contributory factors that I’m aware of.
Firstly, we recently said goodbye to our curate, Nikolaj Christensen, and he and his family have moved to the Wantage Downs benefice where Nikolaj became the rector on Thursday 20 October. We won’t be getting another curate for a while.
Secondly, the pandemic is now largely over and most things have returned back to normal. At one level things appear to be how they were before the pandemic, but at another level it doesn’t feel like that at all. We’re in a different place from where we were.
Thirdly, Sarah and I intend to step back from parish ministry in Iffley sometime in 2023. Quite when depends on the housing market which is in a considerable state of uncertainty. As of this month we’ve been here for 16 very happy years. On 29 June next year I will have been ordained as a priest for 40 years and worked for the church for 41 years. We hope to live in or around Oxford and be involved in a church (sadly not Iffley Church) and I would like to have more time to devote to the ministry of prayer and spiritual direction.
So how is St Mary’s responding to this time of transition?
The PCC and its committees have discussed a number of related matters and the churchwardens and I have met with the archdeacon and associate archdeacon, keeping the area dean fully in the picture. They have assured us that there is every intention that Iffley will continue to have its own vicar and that the vicar will continue to live in Iffley rectory. The hope is that any vacancy will last not more than about 6 months; this may be largely dependent on what improvements are planned for the rectory particularly in the area of energy conservation. We also discussed the possibility of another priest joining St Mary’s to be the ‘lead’ priest during the vacancy. So please be as assured as we were by this news.
Importantly, the PCC are planning a morning for us all to come together to gather information and to take stock as a parish. Examples of the questions we will be asking ourselves are:
* What are the aspects of our common life which we value most highly?
* What are the activities which we need to ensure will continue?
* What should be our priorities in the future?
So on Sunday 11 December we’ll spend the morning looking at our vision and our values. We’ll have a shortened Parish Eucharist at 9am that morning (so set your alarm clocks!) and spend the rest of the morning in the hall – with coffee, tea and pastries to help us on our way. Canon Charles Chadwick, a parish development advisor from the diocese, will facilitate our time together which will include practical activities as well as opportunities for us to share our thoughts and reflections with each other.
We will probably have mixed feelings about this time of transition – sadness and loss as well as anticipation and expectation. It’s important that we surround each other and this process with prayer, so that together we can ‘look to the future of Iffley parish’ with confidence and hope.