The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Magazine      1st July 2019
VIcar's Letter - July 2019
Jeremy Fletcher

Vicar’s Letter for July 2019

The end of June was quite a time for thinking about ministry and calling. I wrote last month anticipating it, and now have the opportunity to reflect just a little. 

Ayla’s ordination to the priesthood, in the company of five others at All Saints Edmonton on Saturday 22 June, was a joy. I was there obviously as Ayla’s Training Incumbent and colleague, but also as the person who will direct Post Ordination Training for the Edmonton Area from now on. Another priest who was there said to me what a privilege it was to take part in the laying on of hands. At the ordination of deacons just the bishop lays hands. For priests all priests present can take part, giving a physical recognition of welcome into the ‘college’ of priests, as fellow labourers in the vineyard. 

Ayla’s First Mass the next day will live long in the memory. Incense, vestments kindly lent from Holy Trinity Sloane Street (where Ayla had been on placement), the ceremonial vesting in sole and chasuble, extra words to our familiar ones, more singing than normal all contributed to the depth and joy of the Eucharist. For me to be her deacon was a remarkable privilege, even if I did forget to process the Gospel Book at the beginning. #deaconfail. To stand at Ayla’s side while many came for an individual blessing was to recognise how much Ayla’s ministry has been valued by people she has met only since coming to Hampstead, and by people over many years. 

On Tuesday 25 June I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my own ordination to the priesthood. I wanted this to be shared with my church family, and it was just such an occasion. People said kind things, some of which I believed, but it was our shared sense of being the body of Christ and a priesthood together which was the greatest pleasure. In my sermon I said this: 

“We priests are the reminder that the whole church is such a priesthood, the whole church has beautiful feet because we proclaim, the whole church invites and challenges the world to become disciples, the whole church reveals the new creation in Christ.”

I’m looking forward to rediscovering this reality of our shared calling as we welcome an ordinand on placement for July and August. Paul Gurnham is training at Westcott House, where Ayla trained. He’ll be involved in all aspects of our life for eight weeks or so, and he introduces himself below. May we continue to rejoice that God calls, shapes and inspires. And thank you for enabling Hampstead Parish Church to grow in that calling. 

Paul Gurnham writes

I am most grateful to the Vicar and people of St John-at-Hampstead for receiving me on placement this summer.

Having practised at the Bar for some years I am now following God’s call to priesthood and enter my final year at Westcott House in Cambridge in September. My recent placements have been in an inner-city parish in Shadwell and working with the homeless in Whitechapel. I am married to Cheryl and live in East London. 

God remains ever faithful and generous and I pray for his blessings on all of us at this time in the life of St John-at-Hampstead.

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