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Church Times Diary November 2017

Church Times Diary November 2017

WILTY, anyone? It stands for (I discovered) the B.B.C. quiz show “Would I lie to you?”, a sort of re-furbished “Call my Bluff”: and, in the everlasting service of parish fundraising, we had a go. My Team, Holy Cross Uckfield, took on Uckfield FM to see who were the best liars. Our redoubtable Team Captain, Julia, claimed a broken arm through babysitting, putting a laxative in a chocolate mousse and an invite to a Silvio Berlusconi “Bonga Bonga” party in the 1970s. (Mercifully all lies). David our splendid assistant priest and a former hospital chaplain, claimed to have given the Last Rites dressed as a Mexican Bandit (false) and to have been given a standing ovation on a Spanish beach for persevering in mounting a recalcitrant lilo for an hour (surreal, but true). From Uckfield FM we discovered that Alvin Stardust had led an impromptu rendition of “Ma coo ca coo” in an Uckfield café (true), another contestant purportedly  dressed as a Womble (false) and another had taken valves under cover of night and the watchful eyes of the Police to Radio Caroline (I’m delighted to say, true). And me? I said I discovered a monkey called Derek in my apple tree (a lie – as Church Times readers know it was actually a nameless chicken). And my truth? At a party I was once mistaken for a novelty strip-a-gram. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or actually pleased that Uckfield F.M. won, proving to be better liars than we were. We tweeted some photos, and the cherry on the cake was when the real B.B.C. WILTY tweeted back “This might be one of our favourite things ever”. I suspect a reprise in next year’s fundraising schedule…..

“Where’s Sophie?” asked the parishioner I had come to visit, more interested (I’d say understandably) in a visit from the Rectory dog than an encounter with the Rector. Luckily she was in the car, so pastoral crisis averted. People often ask me about my little Labrador with canine Muscular Dystrophy, and I’m delighted to say she’s doing remarkably well. Still on reduced doses of steroids, as she gets older she’s getting stronger and more able to cope. The fact she doesn’t know she’s ill helps enormously. I was worried about her coming to a new house: used to lodgers around, I was afraid she’d be lonely, but she’s thriving, largely due to her being taken to my new parishioners’ hearts. I bring her to services where she is wrangled by a variety of people. In two of the churches, she has her own dog bed, where she just curls up, until enticed out by a dog biscuit from her own biscuit boxes. I think, frankly, the Parish has taken to her more than they have to me – again perfectly understandable. So much so that my first Open House for the parish is being held later in November to celebrate her 4th birthday. (Bearing in mind at one time I thought she’d be dead before she was two). There will be balloons, doggie treats and I believe even a bone shaped birthday cake. Maybe every clergy house should come supplied with an attendant clergy dog: a pastoral aid of the first order!

I have now bounced round over one hundred shops in my new patch. “Hello, I’m Fr. John, the new Priest at Holy Cross Church!” There have, as you can imagine, been a variety of reactions. The Tatooist was terrified. Some have been bemused and wary, but a lot have been intrigued and pleased. I’ve made a variety of contacts including local councillors and community workers and have coffee (& gin) invitations I’ll soon take up. It’s about building community, which is what I try to do. It’s the first time I’ve been the Vicar of somewhere, in the sense of a distinct, discrete entity: so far in my ministry I’ve always been part of a bigger place, a suburb or estate within a larger conurbation, and I relish the sense of distinctiveness and the relationship I can build up. I feel I can, finally, get back into a form of ministry I saw modelled when I was a child by Sydney Chapman, the Vicar of Walberton, the village in West Sussex where I grew up. Always out and about, involved in everything that happened in his patch, his was the first and best role model I knew. It feels as if I’m touching base with what called me to the priesthood in the first place. It still feels strange (and quite scary!) starting up all over again (after eleven years in my last post), but Sophie and I are making inroads into our new lives. Wish us luck!

The Rector – John Wall

Reproduced by kind permission of The Church Times.

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