As April 2016 started, Easter was already over, and we were starting on Preparation Classes for the Confirmation that was to happen on May 8th. I had been ordained Deacon for a whole nine months, and was to be Deacon at the Confirmation Mass at which Bishop Jonathan was presiding. This was the second time I had been Deacon for Bishop Jonathan, so it was not quite as scary as the first time (when I was, according to observers, quite pale)!
By last April I was mostly feeling quite comfortable with being a Deacon, a role which is all about service and administration. Within Holy Innocents and St Mark’s Parishes this has mostly been about serving at the Altar during Communion, as well as doing other practical tasks when possible. My role as Deacon is not confined to South Norwood, however, as I am in full time employment across in Hackney. There, my daily work is very much that of a Deacon, clearing and wiping tables, looking after administration tasks and being available to help people in need.
As May arrived, I was soon into preparing for my ordination as Priest on the first Saturday in July. The first thing was rehearsing how to preside at Mass, with Mother Roxanne - when do you hold your hands up? When do you lift the bread and the wine? How many times do you bow? How do you control a hot brass thurible with smoke coming out of it? There was so much to remember - my first mass booklet had to have a lot of ‘stick men’ drawn into it to help my memory!
Late June soon arrived and it was off for the three-day pre-ordination retreat (forty-eight hours of which was in silence) and then the Ordination itself. This was such a special occasion - it hardly seemed possible that my dreams of becoming a Priest, that I’d had seven years earlier, were finally becoming a reality. The occasion was made all the more special by the attendance of people from Holy Innocents and St Mark, and, of course, by friends and family. The very next day I presided at Mass for the first time, with Major Jan Thompson (my wife) being the guest preacher! As if that wasn’t special enough, some friends, who had married the previous day, drove for two hours from their honeymoon destination to join in that Mass with us!
Ordination over, it was time to settle into the new routine as a Priest, Assistant Curate. There has been the regular round of preaching and presiding at Mass, attending the Church Barbeque (where two out of three priests turned up in matching green shorts!), speaking (and singing) at the Mother’s Union with Major Jan, and being asked to repeat the singing at the Christians Together in South Norwood 60th Anniversary Celebrations at St Luke. Then there’s the usual round of PCC, supervision and team meetings, pastoral conversations and, of course, training.
All curates must attend training days which are held monthly. As a Self-Supporting Minister (SSM) I am not expected to attend them all, but have found training in leading Funerals, presiding at the Eucharist, and a Quiet Day with my fellow Assistant Curates to be very helpful.
It has been quite a strange year as we spent a considerable amount of time travelling up and down the country to see my Mother-in-Law, whose health was failing. She passed away peacefully on November 11th and on November 24th I had the tremendous honour of leading her funeral up in Nottinghamshire, the first time I had led a funeral as a Priest.
On a brighter note, as this April has arrived I am working alongside Mother Roxanne as we prepare a couple for their wedding in July, which will be the first time I lead a Wedding as a Priest. Being called to serve God as a Deacon and Priest continues to be a great privilege, and one which I don’t take lightly. And I look forward to this year of continuing to work alongside you, and getting to know you a bit better as we all seek to build the Kingdom of God here in South Norwood.
God bless you,