Many people would have said that it was a safe choice to return to my home town and a ‘cushy’ church job after University. Now I’m approaching the end of my second year and have been recommended for training for Priesthood, I can honestly say the Holywell Community is anything but a cushy church job.
None of us knew what to expect when the Community came into being in September 2014, each of us had an idea of what it could look like but none of us had the full picture. ‘Ora et Labora’ – ‘Prayer and Work’ – was the only certainty. I have found though over the two years I have been here that, although the day to day life of the community has changed many times and the feel has changed with the new members, the overall core basis of the community has never changed; but I have changed.
Having come straight from Reading University and a fairly evangelical Christian Union, arriving in a more traditional setting was a particular challenge – God has continually challenged me and I feel both my theology and practice have deepened as a result. I have been introduced to such disciplines as The Daily Office, Lectio Divina and Theological Reflection: the practice of reflecting upon past experiences to find where God is in them.
If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be helping at a toddler group I’d probably have run a mile. I now lead the parish toddler group. During my time at University I had gained a fair bit of experience in leading and running outreach activities and I have been able to build on this within a Parish context, helping to run such things as ‘Afternoon Tea & Games’. I have also had many opportunities to try out ideas I’ve had and to work ecumenically, for example during the last Week of Prayer for Christian Unity I created a youth worship event for the youth of the churches in the town; bringing together worship teams from across the town bringing with them a blend of hymns and worship songs from across the spectrum, it was a truly wonderful evening.
The Community has also given me the space and the safety to fail sometimes. Some of my projects haven’t gone as well as I’d planned, for example, the Superhero Party we held on Halloween during my first year had no children attend, despite being advertised in all the local schools. Even though a fair amount of time had gone into the planning, I was encouraged to see what good came from its failings rather than being disheartened for its not working. Upon reflection we had people helping to run it from a few of the churches and from outside and it gave us all the space to bond (we still played all the games together). It worked far better in building those links between churches than it had as a kids party.
I have have found that I have been rounded off far more as a person. When living and working with the same people all the time, you start to pick up on each others’ traits and habits and then begin to notice your own, and in being aware of them can start to grow and change. I hadn’t realised quite how laid back I am until a few months ago. Having noticed this, I am in a far better place to relate to the rest of the world and how they work.
Through my time in the Community my passion for evangelism has been further fueled, I have grown as a preacher and in my spirituality, and can relate to both the Christian and the Secular world from a much stronger place. As I move forward into training this Autumn I will be taking with me many lessons I have learned over these two years, the support of many people, both within the Community, the Parishes and those I have met through our work, and a renewed outlook upon my faith and this world.