The one about…the journey!

We moved to Peterborough four and a half years ago, seven of us, on a crazy adventure to a city we didn’t know and people who didn’t know us. To be honest, the very little we knew about the area wasn’t great. The ‘Peterborough ditch murders’ had taken place a year or so before we moved, carried out by someone who lived less than a mile from our house…when you don’t know an area you can be very quick to make assumptions, that along with the fact that both the church houses had been broken into in the months leading up to our move!

Alongside all those events though, the universe was speaking to us! We were invited to meet our prospective training vicar in September 2013. In the run up to the meeting we found an old bible that had been written in by our eldest daughter a year or so before. We’d never noticed but in her scribbled, seven year old handwriting was a prayer: “when we move house can I have my own room and can there be silver birch trees in the garden”. We were given a tour of the parish and shown our possible new home, where there were four bedrooms and silver birch trees in the garden! A couple of weeks after visiting Peterborough for the first time I had a miscarriage. It was a surreal time; the excitement of a whole new adventure, in a city we were slightly fearful of, without a baby we thought we’d be having. Yet the answer to the scribbled prayer connected with us so deeply that as a way to remember the baby and the significance of all that was happening, I had a silver birch tree leaf tattooed on my hand. I’m reminded each time I look at it that there’s a bigger plan and that we were meant to be here!

We’re still here and the adventure has been awesome! We arrived as a family of seven and now we’re a family of nine, with hundreds more friends! Our time here has opened our eyes to the variety that the role of priest or vicar offers. We get the jokes about how Sid only works Sundays…we can see how people think that! There is more to the job though. We have the privilege of sharing with people in key moments; through baptisms, weddings and funerals. We join with those who are celebrating and stand with those who are mourning, it’s humbling to be part of people’s lives. The role here has been so much more than that though too. We’ve been involved in the parish primary school as chaplains, mentors and on the governing body. Sid has taken on role of chaplain to the youth team at Peterborough United and then there are the relationships and conversations that grow out of simply living in a place, of doing the school run, or of taking your kids to clubs. It’s a whole way life.

Out of all those things we’ve also been able to experiment with what church might be, trialing a different way of being church. During the summer before we moved here, we created a list of ‘values’ that we thought were important for church, the key elements of what church could be, based on a combination of experience, reading and Sids training at college. When we came to Peterborough there was an understanding that we’d get to try and put some of our “theory” into practice! We called it “Refresh” and we held a monthly gathering where we talked about things of God, and pondered some of what makes us human; we shared food and formed friendships. Out of this other things began to grow, a weekly tots group, podcasts on the themes of the month and a blog!! In some ways we just began to touch the surface of what we’d like to do, mainly because the role of priest required time and energy too but also because our future here has always been uncertain.

We moved here for a three year training post, knowing that we’d then move on to our own parish. However, nothing’s that straightforward! Fifteen months into the training post, the vicar who led the two churches left. Sid took on the responsibilities of the role of vicar until the lines between curate and vicar blurred. At the end of his three year training post we were given the opporunity to stay for another year and continue the role of helping the two churches work together and become, in Church of England speak, a “united benefice”! A challenge which all involved threw themselves into. It speaks into what church should be: a place where people come together, listen to each other, seek to connect with the Divine. All of this required everyone to give of themselves, to love, forgive and celebrate…it’s a journey we’ve been on together as church. In the midst of that journey though we have had conflicting, confusing messages about our role here, some of that from our own understanding of what we may or may not be ‘called’ to do and some from the institution we work for, who ultimately decide whether we stay or go.

I guess when the vicar left and we continued the work here it seemed to make sense that we’d stay. I know at one point we wrestled with that because we’d always believed we’d have to move on. Staying became a new concept, something we found hard to comprehend at first. There’s a big difference between staying in a place long term and frequently moving. The community here have made it clear that they would love us to stay, which also speaks of what it is to be church, but it’s not that simple. It’s been painful and confusing as well as life giving and exciting. It’s been a time of soul searching, of prayer and conversation as we try to work out what it is we’re passionate about and what we’d give our lives to doing. Something I don’t think we would have explored so deeply if we’d found another parish two years ago!

So here we are, still uncertain about where we’ll do life in 2019 but with some clarity about what we’ll be doing. Our heart, our passion is to create church, Prodigal Church to be precise. Our vision? To be a church in the community, for the community, a spiritual centre of the community but with a very practical, action centred vision to make a difference for good, to go beyond ourselves and our limited experience; to love and look out for each other and those around us and as we discover more of what life in all its fullness looks like for all people!

We’re not sure where this will happen, we’re still trying to figure that out. It’s a little scary with two pay cheques left, especially when the house comes with the job! Yet it’s exciting and briming with possibilities. Life is an adventure; birthing something new is painful…but it’s always worth it!

8 thoughts on “The one about…the journey!

    1. It seems, as with most of life, that there are a number of ways of interpreting any situation! I guess I’m not trying to use the blog to vent so it’s a challenge to stay true to the story without sounding bitter or ungrateful!! I guess writing it is a kind of therapy, it offers time for reflection and weighing up what we really learnt from all that’s gone and going on! I love that you read positivity!xx

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  1. Love hearing how you guys are getting on and all your blogs.. ur such a great writer Debs. I trust that the right door will open for you all very soon. I can’t believe how big Zeb and Ezra have got… I hope you find somewhere that you can be used and that can house your wonderful family. I know it will be so hard to leave your beautiful house and parish that seemed so perfect for you all … but there must be bigger plans. Stay strong even when it’s hard ( especially for the children to move schools at this stage) Much love K xxx

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    1. Thanks Katy…writing is my therapy, unpacking what I believe the impact that has on how we do life…it’s been a safe escape in what are uncertain days…somehow it gives me hope, kind of adds a different perspective to it all! It’s been too long since we saw you guys… be good to catch up in person sometime soon!

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  2. Very sobering and I suppose the reality of what it means to be a manse/vicarage family. The episode of Vicar of Dibley not screened! It strikes me that God is present and has made himself known to you through all situations. If God is your satnav, even if you take a wrong turn, or more scenic route; he will get you to where you are meant to be!
    every blessings for the year ahead of you
    Calum

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    1. I’d quite like to be Alice if I get to star in the vicar of Dibley!!😉 It seems that God’s people have always experienced awesome moments and then promptly forgotten how awesome their God is! I think it’s called being human…seems I might be quite good at being human! But also humans are hard wired with hope so I have a good level of that kicking around generally! What I love is that friends, like yourself, have seen me through some pretty dark times and you’re able to remind me of the faithfulness of God… so thanks! Needed that! Love to you and Angela…xx

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  3. You are a gift to the church. Thank you for being on this adventure. As I read this blog I was reminded that God is pleased to build in the ruins of life. What ever we give to him, he uses to build. God is also pleased to build in the ruins of church.

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    1. Ben, hey, your words have danced in my head most of the night(such is the gift of wake-full children!) That word ‘ruin’…we’re just back from a holiday in Wales where we played in the ruins of Aberystwyth castle, the children brought the place to life with imaginations full of knights, spies, princesses, capture and conquer… we left and the place was once again empty, just a pile of stones (until the next adventurers arrived I imagine!) Those ruins would never become what they had been but, as with any ruins, there is opportunity to restore, recreate, revive…to grow something new but rooted in something familiar…all those “re-” words that are a form of resurrection… and in resurrection there’s always hope! So thank you…thanks for reminding me of hope and life even in the unlikely places!

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