A Letter from your incumbent

 

Our Common Calling
 
I am delighted to announce that the Bishop of Sherborne has appointed Revd Sandra Williams as an Associate Priest in the Benefice of West Purbeck.  Revd. Sandra will work with us as a member of the Ministry Team across the benefice and within this she will have pastoral responsibility for Bere Regis and Affpuddle. We are all excited at her appointment and we look forward to welcoming her later in the year. Revd Sandra will move into the vicarage at Bere Regis towards the middle of September with her husband Graham and she will be licensed at St John the Baptist Church, Bere Regis, on 2nd October. Do look out for an introductory article from Revd Sandra in next month’s magazine.
 
The early Church Father Tertullian said that nothing distresses the Lord as much as the division of His Church. In the Benefice of West Purbeck the good news is that for most of us division is not in the forefront of our minds, quite the opposite.  We recently celebrated our first 5th Sunday joint Service together; members of St John the Baptist, Bere Regis, St Laurence, Affpuddle and Holy Rood, Wool all worshipped together at Affpuddle as the Church in this place. It was a really good and life giving experience to come together as the body of Christ. As some members of the congregation said after the Service: ‘The sum was better than the parts.’ 
  
However, the knowledge that we are to welcome a new member of the Benefice Team in October leads us to think about vocation and discipleship; who is it that is called, who learns and who is sent out to do the Lord’s work?  Often, when we think about vocation and discipleship we think ‘clergy’ and, of course, clergy are learners, they are called and they are sent by God out into the world in mission to do His work. But it is not only clergy that that this commission applies to.  At the joint Service I referred to above we kept the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This day in the church calendar is always a time at which men and women (in the Church of England at any rate) are ordained as deacons and priests. On the day of our Service it was the day for the ordination of deacons. Eight men and women were ordained as deacons in Salisbury Cathedral and have now taken their places as Assistant Curates in their parishes or chaplaincies to begin the particular ministry to which God has called them at this time. All clergy (including priests, archdeacons, priests, bishops and even archbishops) are ordained first as deacons and even if they are later also ordained as priests (or bishops, archbishops ..) they always remain a deacon. 
 
The term ‘deacon’ comes from a Greek meaning ‘one who serves’. In the New Testament, the deacons, such as Philip in the Acts of the Apostles, were those who served at table; deacons are the servants of others modelled on the pattern of Jesus who told us that he came ’not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ The scriptural image that illustrates this most of all is where Jesus takes a towel (‘stole’), ties it around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet. Washing feet was always the job of a servant.  Sometimes men and women may be ordained as ‘distinctive deacons.’ In this case they are not later also ordained as priests (or bishops). Their calling is to serve, with one foot in the church and the other in the world acting as a bridge between the two. The thing about all deacons, though, is that although ordained they symbolise the ministry to which all baptised Christians are called whether ordained or not.  They are, if you like, the visible illustration of our common calling because all of us are called to diaconal ministry; that is to service of others. If you look carefully at a deacon during worship and they wear robes, which is quite likely, you may notice something about them; namely that the stole which they receive at ordination is worn over one shoulder and tied to the side whereas a priest’s stole is word around both shoulders and it hangs freely to the front. The deacon’s stole is ‘moved’ to the side so as to be out of the way of the work of the day. The work can be any work but most usually it is expected to be service of others. 
 
In these next few months as we anticipate the arrival of our new colleague and priest, there is a real opportunity for us pray for Rev Sandra and Graham as they prepare to move to Bere Regis and also to ask ourselves:-who am I, or who are we, being called to serve in our communities at this time?  
 
Rev Carol