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Rector's View - September 2009

Dear friends,

How time flies when you are enjoying yourself… and/or when you are very busy! It is almost impossible to believe that a year has passed since that wonderful and uplifting service which welcomed me to the Bansfield Benefice! "Never change anything in the first year," they tell us. Well, chance would be a fine thing! Just keeping the seven parishes going has been, for now, enough of a challenge, though both an enjoyable and exhausting one, with its fair share of frustrations, as in all walks of life. Of course I realise that many parishioners are just as busy as me, or more so!

So what on earth does your rector (and hundreds like him!) do all the time? It might be tempting, even understandable, to believe that he just turns up on Sundays, and socialises in the parishes the rest of the time. Well, of course, it was never quite that easy, but in addition, as in every other occupation, things are changing dramatically and expectations and demands are increasing all the time, especially in terms of administration, targets, appraisals, accountability, health and safety, Child Protection implementation and so on. "More tea vicar," is sadly hardly ever heard these days, unless you count attending all the Harvest Suppers (not good for the ever-expanding waistline!) and refreshments following seven carol services, not to mention the myriad of wonderful fund-raising and social events staged with such great dedication and tireless effort by the people of the Churches and communities. There are indeed times when I feel like the Vicar Of Dibley on Christmas Day!

However, most of my work is probably behind the scenes. Remember that every single service requires preparation - sermons rarely miraculously fall out of the sky, and ironically, the more preparation goes into them, the less scope there is for boring rambling, and the shorter and more succinct the message will be! The same goes for magazine articles! Every wedding, baptism and funeral requires my own preparation, visits and preparation with the families involved, as well as the ever- mounting mounds of paperwork. It is tremendous to be able to welcome more couples with qualifying connections to be married in our Churches, but of course the many rules and regulations necessitate yet more paperwork, and the questions and checks can make the rector unpopular, as some people may be tempted to "shoot the messenger"!

Then there is the other paperwork: services' rotas to draw up which are fair to all seven Churches; applications for faculties; marriage returns and fees returns, expenses claims (not blacked-out!); memorial applications with all their rules and regulations… to name but a few. There are at least twenty-eight Parochial Church Council meetings a year across the parishes in addition to Benefice Committee meetings, committee meetings for three charities, organists' meetings, and ministry team meetings, just to keep things ticking over and sometimes to make important decisions.

Pastoral care, though, is at the heart of a priest's ministry - visits to those who are ill or in need, sometimes including home Communions and hospital visits, and to those who have requested a visit for whatever reason. Much of this work is obviously confidential, and not therefore publicised.

Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list, but will hopefully give you some idea of what the life of a parish priest is like - it is a way of life rather than a job.

In addition there are commitments at deanery and diocesan level - these are essential because they keep us in touch with each other and enable strategies and policies to be made across the deaneries and dioceses. They also promote the exchange of good practice and new ideas. I am also required to attend training days, seminars, conferences and social gatherings, and am also duty Chaplain at the Cathedral once a month.

There is one strategy in particular which we hope will impact on our future in this benefice and which will help us to move forward together to new horizons: throughout the country many benefices are to be organising another "Back to Church Sunday" on 27th September - which we will be celebrating with a Benefice-wide service at Cowlinge at 10.00am. If you haven't been to Church for a while why not come along and give it another go? - you will be made very welcome. Then there is the "Fresh Expressions" project which is in the pipeline in this diocese, and in many others. It aims to make the Church, and our faith, more accessible to all, and more obviously relevant to more people in the twenty-first century. More details will follow soon, but in the meantime, do remember, if you feel you do not see enough of the rector, why not come and see HIM, or one of the other members of the ministry team, at a service? As a Church we know we need to change, but we need people to come and help us change from within!

With every blessing,

Stephen

Rev'd Stephen Abbott

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Last Modified Friday 08 June 2012