Three years ago, I paid a few visits to a central London parish, with a view to potentially working there while training for ordination. On my first trip, I was shown round the streets of the parish where local celebrities’ homes were pointed out; favourite eateries highlighted; and several parishioners greeted. One service and a persuasive pizza later, and I committed. For the next three years, my home would be the parish of St George’s Holborn – first on the north-eastern most tip of the parish, on the corner of King’s Cross Road, then latterly, on the fabulous Lambs Conduit Street.
Time has flown! I arrived, a fairly fresh-faced ordinand, having only preached one ‘proper’ sermon and never having led a service. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d let myself in for – this was going to be my first shot at the adventure of church ministry. I leave, having preached more sermons than I can count on my fingers; a whole host of services; assisted with baptisms and communion; got to know an amazing bunch of students; and found a host of friends – some of whom are now strewn across the globe in a very pleasing, international adventure kind of a way!
There are so many highlights that it would be impossible (or rather, very tedious) to list them all here!
- The undoubtedly life-long friends I’ve made over the 3 years.
- The two trips to Focus. I may loathe camping, but it’s made so much better by hanging out with lovely people!
- The babies that have been born and who I’ve watch grow up, a bit.
- Countless office shenanigans.
- Getting to know the local school and becoming one pupil’s favourite governor.
- Having an incumbent who understood the demands of academic work, and ensured that I had the space to do my best. (Which paid off!)
And then there were the students – which is a whole category of highlights of their own!
I know that it’s a fact of church ministry that every so often, you get the privilege of being alongside a very special group of people. I saw it when I was growing up in my parents’ churches, and I’ve seen it with friends. At St George’s, I was lucky enough to hit gold – right at the start of the first year.
The students that made up the 2011-12 student group created something special together. When new people arrived, they welcomed them heartily. When members graduated and moved to the other side of the world, they were involved in gatherings via Skype and Whatsapp conversations of epic proportions. This summer, most of them will reunite in Singapore & Malaysia – they’ve created a set of very special friendships.
We have had both special and ridiculous times together. There were the literal brownie points during Bible studies (thank you Sainsbury’s for your handy boxes of brownie bites); a willingness to dress up, even in front of the whole church; stupid games; excellent food; the first baptism I’ve ever assisted with… Oh, and the fact that I will never again be able to say grace in a restaurant without remembering the many, many times I’ve eaten out with these guys and they’ve made grace be as obvious and as long as possible in order to embarrass me as much as possible. Long rambling prayers, while holding hands, timed to begin just as a waiter is approaching. Classic.
St George’s, you will always be remembered fondly! Thank you for an excellent three years.
[And as for what's next, you'll simply have to watch this space & wait and see...]