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The Vicar WritesJeremy Fletcher
People are more interested than I expected them to be about practicalities of the career of the clergy. Ive been asked whether Bishops can just get us to move when they decide, whether there is a structure for promotion (and, presumably, demotion), and whether we can petition for a pay rise. The process of applying for a new ministerial role, being considered for it, and then moving is equally fascinating to some, and is infinitely complex. More than once I have found myself thinking that it would be simpler if a Bishop just rang up and told me where I was going next.
All of that is a prelude to reflecting on the period between late summer 2016 and early spring 2017, and everything that happened to us and here in Hampstead. I hope I will not bore you as I continue to give thanks for the way in which ministry here continued and flourished during the vacancy, the way the new role was offered, and the way we have been warmly welcomed to Hampstead. Many people, led by our Churchwardens, worked in a costly fashion, and it is much appreciated.
One of the oddities of the (very thorough) system of making this appointment is that the candidate and then Vicar designate actually meets a very small percentage of the people with whom they will work closely. These last ten days (as I type) have therefore been what someone called a tidal wave of meeting new people, learning new things, trying to memorise names, and trying to get a feel for the major tasks, opportunities and challenges to come. The other image that came to mind this week was that of changing trains except that setting things down in Beverley and taking them up in Hampstead is like jumping from one train to another without either of them slowing down.
The fact that I had met a very few people here before we came means that most people here have not met Julia or me either. Well remedy that just as soon as we can, not least by seeking to offer hospitality in the Vicarage. Until then, our briefest details will have to do. The nearest we have lived to London has been Nottingham, and the furthest away has been Hartlepool. The last three churches we served were great Minsters all associated with the Archbishop of York (and dating back thirteen centuries). Julia is changing career from the law to administration for the Edmonton Area. And, as I said on my first Sunday, we eat meals and drink wine and have been known to do that in other peoples houses too.
Thank you for your welcome. Our great joy is that we have moved in March, as spring progresses and the days get lighter. It will be exciting and challenging walking the way of the Cross with you as we move into Passiontide, Holy Week and Easter. I look forward to our life and work together as we bring the Kingdom of God near, and seek and serve Christ in all we meet. And please be patient as your names get embedded in my middle-aged brain.