The View from the (vacant) Rectory - December 2018
This is, of course, the first issue of the Parish Magazine since Philip's departure for Frodingham, so it was necessary to find a new title for this leading article. The one chosen, as above, should serve us as a reminder (if needed) that the Rectory is vacant, and why.
The fact that the Rector has left us for pastures new does not mean, of course, that the parish lacks leadership - far from it! Those members of the laity in senior positions on the PCC and elsewhere have ample experience, and the parish also has the benefit of the varied resources of the Diocesan Office, of which more in a moment.
So why do I find myself in the position of writing this article this month, and hopefully continuing to do so however long the vacancy lasts? It was felt that those in the leadership positions to which I referred a moment ago - especially the Churchwardens and Licensed Readers - had their hands more than full, and that my experience of the parish and the diocese might provide a slightly different focus in this column.
Just as a reminder, I exercised the ministry of a Licensed Reader, in the parish and elsewhere, for more than a quarter of a century. It was only when I reached the age of 80, and mobility problems were beginning to make themselves evident, that I felt that it was time to withdraw from normal ministry and become a Reader Emeritus ( a very grand title for a post with very few responsibilities!). After a time, however, I began to feel that I still had something to say, and Philip very kindly invited me to preach from time to time, which I very much enjoyed doing.
Such an invitation can only be extended by the incumbent, and as we are now without an incumbent, there can be no such invitations. It may well be, however, that from time to time something which otherwise would have figured in a sermon will find its way into this column.
As I write this, we have just completed a memorable, indeed unique, Remembrance weekend, when in common with communities throughout the country, we commemorated the armistice which ended the fighting in the First World War. The church was full to overflowing for a very moving service, including the observing of the silence at 11am, and this was followed by a superb exhibition of material relating to the Deepings during the war. Many new items had been (sometimes literally) unearthed, and much work put into their display and interpretation. Those concerned, and especially Elizabeth Parkinson, deserve our heartfelt congratulations and thanks.
This was in almost complete contrast to the previous weekend, when PCC members and others had spent most of Sunday in the Green School, participating in a very interesting "Vacancy Day", led by the Revd John Leach of the Diocesan Mission team. No doubt this will be more fully reported elsewhere in this magazine, and its results will help to guide the PCC in its considerations during the vacancy. There it is - I've written the dread word "vacancy", but we mustn't allow this to take over our thinking altogether. In a way, it's rather like the secular world: now that the Remembrance weekend is over, I have no doubt the media will expect us to return to their obsession with Brexit.
But we mustn't allow ourselves to become obsessed with "the vacancy" in the same way as we have with Brexit. The church, and each of us individually, has far too many other concerns and responsibilities to allow this to happen: our relationships with the community, with one another, with ourselves, need constant attention.
By the time you read these words, we will have embarked on the wonderful season of Advent, when we look forward to the coming of the Son of God, and to his second coming for each of us. May this be a blessed time for all of us, and may we share fully the riches of God's blessing at Christmas.