Dear All ,
As I write, it was only yesterday that I was installed as Vicar of Tanfield with Burnopfield and Dipton, and what better way to begin these, my first words as Priest in this Benefice, than by thanking you for the fabulous welcome that you gave to me and my family. The service was both moving and joy filled for me, and I hope for you as well – and as for the spread afterwards in the Church Hall, this was frankly amazing both in terms of its variety and size. I am touched by all the effort made on my behalf and I am hopeful that this will be but the first of many such happy occasions that we will celebrate as a church family during my time here, (although I suspect that I will need to get my cassock taken out if there are too many more of these incredible bun fights!).
As any of you who attended the service itself will know, in his words to us from the pulpit, Mark, the Bishop of Jarrow also served up food – in his case food for thought. His sermon was one in which he challenged us, as I begin my ministry amongst you, to work together for the good of our communities; for the good of the people of Tanfield, Burnopfield and Dipton. I will never forget his call that we truly get to know these places where we live, to find how we can serve them best, and through our actions and words, become a real blessing to those that we find ourselves alongside. But, more than this undoubtedly hard demand, what I will most clearly remember from this sermon is the call to look upon the people we see around us every day with “the eyes of Jesus”; the call to love and cherish each person that we meet, no matter how they act, or who they are, as Christ loves and cherishes them.
This is clearly something that will require time, effort, and the need to think about everything that we do in our church lives at present in great detail, as by doing this we can decide how we can best focus our efforts to allow blessings to flow to those around us. More than anything though this is a task that can only be achieved on our knees in prayer – prayer that God will help us to be and see as Jesus Himself did and does. As I think about the task ahead, I wonder if this prayer may be helpful for all of us over the next few weeks and months together.
Heavenly Father, at this new stage in the lives of our parishes, we pray to you for guidance. Give us wisdom to know your will for our lives and the lives of those people around us. Give us compassion to look upon our neighbours in love and to see what our communities need. Give us humility to put others first and to hold our own needs more lightly. Help us to look upon Tanfield, Burnopfield and Dipton with the eyes of your Son, Jesus Christ and to see how we can truly bless these places that we love, now and in our futures together. Amen.
If by the time I have left this place I can say that together we have looked upon and loved people as Jesus did, blessing our communities in how we have lived as Christians in this region, then I think that we will have done the job that God has called me here for – which I think is certainly a good reason for another one of those hoped for celebration feasts! Andy