I first met Tom in 2003 in the war zone of South Sudan on a church mission trip. I was engaged to Rachel and as a couple we enjoyed getting to know Tom and Jo and all the kids and saw them from time to time over the next few years, both in London and in Brazil. And so it was amazing that Bishop Paul in 2014 appointed me Deanery Pioneer Curate based at St John’s (and shortly to be with St Mary’s) which turned out to be a really good idea from my point of view. Tom and I have remained, with God’s help, firm friends from start to finish (assuming we don’t fall out in the next week!)
I have loved my curacy, and the more I chat to other curates I know, the more I can see my curacy has been particularly unique and positive. With no employed staff team here, all of church life comes across Tom’s desk, and often my desk, and we have had to work it out together. This has given me a lot of exposure to running the parish. I think it’s also amazing that so many of our members live locally and can walk to church – either at St John’s or St Mary’s. Consequently, we have unusually strong links with local people, through shared experiences, passions and histories. This has not been the case in other churches I’ve been in.
The curacy has also helped me as a person – in terms of confidence and resilience. Praying through the Psalms daily with Tom has been crucial for this and has helped my own faith grow in reliance on God, as well as developing good patterns of spiritual disciplines. And then not having Tom when he went on sabbatical was a (steep!) learning curve but a good and necessary one which helped me to gain some perspective on this vocation of being a vicar. Needless to say, the curacy has been great fun for us as a whole family in large part because we have been so well looked after by both congregations.
Last Sunday I announced our next move.
The Rt Rev’d Paul Williams, the former Bishop of Kensington, now Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham is appointing me, as from the beginning of September, as his interim Chaplain. Therefore, Joanna and I will be moving into Southwell at the end of August. We are excited about this and indeed it tempers our sadness on leaving our many friends and the ministry we have loved in Isleworth.
With his current Chaplain moving on to a new post, he is taking the opportunity to review the best way to structure his team and so my appointment is an interim one, for up to 6 months. During that time, I will be exploring with him new opportunities for me to serve in a parish, I very much hope in his Diocese. I am greatly looking forward to working with him and his team, to a new emphasis in my ministry and also for the opportunity to get to know a new Diocese.
We spent much of Thursday in Southwell, looking round and meeting people. It all now seems much more real! Southwell, with its magnificent minster church is where the Diocese has its offices and the Bishop lives. It’s a pleasant market town and we will enjoy getting to know it, although we do not expect to be there for very long. I’m very much looking forward to working closely with the Bishop.
Jubilee House, a modern building, is where all the Diocesan and Bishop’s staff work. Open plan, I’ll have my desk there – quite a change from what I’ve been used to for all the time I have been working. However, it felt very appealing and practical to have everyone together in one big space – Bishop (of Sherwood,) Archdeacons, Chief Exec, Registrar, Advisors, Schools Board, etc.
Almost all of us have to go to the West Mid Hospital at some point. If you have children, then definitely! The children’s unit provides cares for over 1,000 babies, children and young people each month, increasing, as a quarter of the local population is under 18. The staff on Starlight and Sunshine wards provide excellent care, but the environment requires significant improvement.
Katy and Jonathan Cooper’s children, Stanley and Ruby (being baptized today) have spent more than fair share of time there.
Katy says: “Creating a child friendly environment which caters for the different age groups that Starlight sees will really make a difference to children and their families. The play room in Starlight, although basic, is a vital part of Stanley’s time at the hospital. It will be great to see this area improved.”
Stanley says: “Being in the playroom is good. I can stretch my legs. There is nothing to do but sit in the bed on the ward. I can squeeze the special toy and look at the books the play staff give me so I don’t have to look at the cannula.”
West Middlesex Children’s Appeal explains the vision – to transform these wards to create a child friendly, welcoming, calming environment with better facilities and specifically designed to make being in hospital easier for children and their parents. The aim of the improvements is that children having procedures can be ‘distracted’; those who are bed bound will have more to occupy them; there will be lots of sensory play equipment; there will be a designated teenager space; and for parents, there will be more beds and the day room will be made more ‘homely’.
£100,000 is the target. Support Jonathan in his half marathon. Contact Roberta Jones at CW+ to discuss your own fundraising activity.
The new shed in the corner of the car park at St John’s is a ‘bike hub’ for The Bike Project.
The Bike Project (TBP) opened in March 2013, and since then has donated over 2,000 bikes. They give second hand bikes to refugees and asylum seekers, run bike maintenance workshops and run a project where refugee women are taught to cycle from scratch. A proportion of the bikes donated are sold and 100% of the profits go back into supporting their charitable work.
TBP is a community of refugees, mechanics and volunteers, which includes bike hub members. They rely on a steady donation of bikes from generous individuals and organisations. Their workshop in Denmark Hill is a great space, but not always convenient when someone wants to drop off a bike. Not least as they don’t have the luxury of a full time van and driver, they work through a system of bike hubs, local drop off points for people to gift their old two wheelers to TBP.
27,000 bikes are abandoned in London each year. Just one of these bikes can help an asylum seeker get to crucial appointments and save them £21.20 a week on a bus pass. When you’re living off £36.95, that makes a big difference. One day, they
hope to give a bike to every refugee wanting one. Please only adult or children’s complete bikes in any condition, not accessories or parts. A ‘complete bike’ is one with all of the components, including both wheels.
All donors are asked to fill out a bike tag when they arrive and attach it to the bike. TBP wants to thank everyone that donates a bike to us and keep them updated. They also need to check the bike’s registration details on the national bike register. Dave Young is co-ordinating things for us.
Tom (on holiday this week) has officially handed in his notice, and his last Sunday with us will be the 25th June. We hope the final service might be a special occasion. Tea, coffee and cakes served from the back of the church will follow the service to allow for a short farewell.
The summer fair on the 24th June will also provide a chance for many people from the parish to catch up with Tom and Jo informally. Although Tom and Jo will no doubt reveal all in due course, there seems to be more clarity for them about where they might be going in the next stage of their ministry, which is good news.
Church family picture
Before Tom and Jo leave, the PCC thought it would be a good idea to attempt a church photo to replace the one in the porch of St John’s which is several years old now. After the service on June 4th, therefore, we will congregate outside for the photo. Please come along that Sunday to be included if possible (including our St Mary’s congregation!), and pray for good weather!
July and August 2017
After Tom’s final Sunday, both Tom and Dave will be on leave and the church will be without clergy for the summer while the PCC work through the transition in the parish. This is a good chance for people to step up and help! Please support the Churchwardens Brian and Gayle and the PCC as they manage church life through this time. Visiting clergy will conduct services across July and August.