I was licensed to these parishes on 6th April last year, though the liturgical calendar means that I'm mostly remembering my final week at St M's (which I left last Easter Sunday) as I travel through this Holy Week.
But though one year is no time at all, I guess it does mark a transition...Since the arrival of a colleague February I have not been the newcomer at Chapter, and with 52 weeks behind me I think I can stop thinking I'm the "new" vicar, and begin to believe I'm really here, where I belong.
So - what have I learned this first year here?
I remember the initial realisation that, however good a curacy may be, it actually prepares you above all to be vicar of your training parish! The first weeks here were spent frantically adjusting to familiar things that were still utterly different, because of the new context (and resisting the constant urge to ask FabVicar if I was doing alright!...that's not something anyone will be likely to tell you in the world of grown-up vicaring).
I've learned that many of the aspects of church life & worship which I had assumed to be essential just aren't on anyone else's agenda particularly. People mostly appreciate what is offered but wont be hugely disturbed if this is simple fare.There is no sense that the churches have a "right" way of doing things, which you disturb at your peril, - and this flexibility is a great gift. Conversely, of course, it can mean that I need to provide a high proportion of the energy and motivation for anything I want to introduce - though as Messy Church demonstrates, people are wonderfully supprtive if they see the point of something.
I do need to be careful that, with my alarming tendency to produce new ideas in bulk, I don't exhaust those splendid souls who find themselves lumbered with helping me see them through...but mostly I need to learn to balance my role as a vision holder with enabling the vision of others. It would be disturbingly easy to dream my dreams for these communities, sweep up others as we make them real, and then see them falter and die when the time came for me to move on...Whatever happens in these parishes in the next year, and beyond, needs to be truly "home grown" - a vision that, under God, belongs to these communities. I know there is one...I need the patience to allow it to emerge in its own time, the wisdom to lead without imposing a direction, the grace to set aside my vision should it threaten to impede fragile growth.
One year on, I still need to pray that I may really mean the easy words about shared ministry, that those ringing phrases from the licensing service may truly reflect the lives of these churches
" Together, by God's grace, we will grow in our faith and discipleship...Together by God's grace,we will be a Christ-like community of love...Together, by God's grace, we will tell the good news of Christ to the world...Together, by God's grace, we will worship him in spirit and in truth...Together by God's grace, we will seek to be the living body of Christ..."
Together, - that's the key.
It is not good for clergy (or anyone else for that matter) to be alone.