I've been in Bemerton six years now. Soon after I arrived I did a sponsored 10 km swim, and if there’s one thing you need to go the distance, its rhythm. Your body just works better when it can get an even pace, rather than sprinting or resting. Six years. Its amazing I’ve been here so long. Its the longest I’ve lived or worked anywhere since leaving where I grew up 25 years ago. I suppose I ought to start thinking of it as home (theologically heaven is our real home, but I think we’re allowed to call this one a temporary base!).
So after all this time, it feels like the parish and I are finally getting in rhythm. (I put it like that because I’m not sure if I’ve fallen in with the parish year, or made the parish year fit me, or we’ve met in the middle). I think it was helped a lot by Ned starting school in September. There is a whole timetable and ordering system there - those in it (teachers and parents) are ruled by it, whilst another part of society knows nothing of it but whispers. My life was already influenced strongly from weekly assemblies, end of term services and the like. Now Ned’s at Bemerton St.John, I feel fully immersed in the school world. He loves it - he’s got a great class and teachers and just has a great time. So far no-one’s mentioned the “vicar’s kid” thing. That probably starts at secondary school.
The rhythm of parish life is marked by the great Festivals of the church of course, and Christmas was extra special this year. For the first time in decades we had carol services in St. Andrews. The failure of St. John’s heating and merging of the congregation with St. Michael’s up the hill, means that the little church has once again become the heart and soul of the Lower Village. This renewal of its role saw an Advent service and two Christmas Carols services there. All in candlelight, with the maestro Barry Ferguson on the piano. This will definitely become a new tradition, part of the rhythm.
One of the wonderful things about St. Andrew's is it size. In Salisbury you can go to a Cathedral service - grand and awesome - with 2000 others, but perhaps not speak to anyone. In our little “stable”, everyone says hello, rubs shoulders with others, is given a hearty welcome and soon finds themselves among friends. Also in this renewal of the life of St. Andrew’s are the monthly Evening Prayer Services. Already nearly full, it meets a need for a group of villagers, and echoes back to rhythms that Herbert himself lived by.
I suppose Herbert was no stranger to building work either, or saving churches - for this is all part of the rhythm too. People ask me if I’ve got less work to do now that St. John’s is closed for regular worship. What they forget is that I’m still on duty every Sunday at St. Andrews and St. Michael’s, only now there is the additional tasks of getting St. John’s turned into a viable community centre for the village. The Bemerton Community Group are doing a fantastic job and having had a visit from the Victorian Society and others, we hope 2010 will see a real step forward. Other building works may happen in St. Michael’s too, and its associated community centre.
There was a question in the 'Church Times' recently about why vicars all had to do building projects. I think the evidence suggests that rather than empire building or mark making, it has always been thus, and is just part of keeping things up to date, workable, and fit for purpose. In St. Andrews we are planning new storage at the back - its time the green curtain went! Also the greater village usage has highlighted the inadequate heating - its fine for the fabric, but not the people. So we’re looking into that.
The round of repairs keeps us busy too - the bell tower needs to be done again, and we’ve discovered the porch needs to be repainted every couple of years because of the exhaust fumes. We are learning to keep in rhythm with the building. Six years ago I arrived, and six years ago it snowed. Its snowing now as I write this, and it feels part of nature's God given rhythms. Praise Him!
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