North Cornwall is a truly glorious place, and it’s a privilege to live and work here – on the edge of everything. Where rugged cliffs encounter dramatic Atlantic breakers. Where Cornwall meets England. And where the Gospel is tested in people’s everyday lives.
Our 23 churches (across 18 parishes) are mainly small, rural, struggling for cash – and in good heart. Financial pressures mean that clergy are thin on the ground – but the dedication of their congregations mean that the churches are hives of activity.
Stratton Deanery covers a wide geographical area – but we work well together, and there is a real sense of common purpose. Clergy and lay officers meet weekly in Deanery College, for prayer, bible study and discussion. We’re keen to get away from narrow parochialism, and share scarce resources across the deanery.
We’re not afraid to be controversial – and stand up and speak out for social justice, however unpopular it sometimes makes us.
As many of you will know by now, I have been offered and accepted, the post of Interim Priest in Charge of St Nicolas, Pevensey, in Chichester Diocese. My last Sunday in Cornwall will be 18th February, with the licensing in Sussex on 13th March.
It will be a very different kind of ministry, in that although Pevensey is technically a village, it’s connected in all sorts of ways to the nearby large town of Eastbourne, which is where we will be living, and instead of having responsibility for eight churches, there are just two – and one PCC, rather than five.
Within the next three years, the parish will join with the adjoining one – which is of a very different tradition. A lot of work needs doing to prepare the ground – and is why the interim ministry post has been created (and why it is time-limited).
I’d not been looking for another job, but was approached and asked to consider it – and it felt right. We know the area well, as it’s where I grew up, where all our children were born, and where I taught for 24 years.
When I was little, I remember being told that you should always leave the table feeling you could eat some more. It seemed counter-intuitive – but was a point well made.
And it’s true in other respects – which is why it makes sense, if possible, to move on whilst whatever it is you’re doing is still enjoyable and interesting – rather than waiting until it’s begun to pall.
But change invariably involves challenge, as it means leaving your personal comfort zone – which is what I will be doing, by beginning a new phase of ministry, when most clergy of my vintage have long since retired.
Because although I certainly want more time for things that have for many years got rather squeezed out, I’m not looking to hang up my cassock just yet. So the fact that this is a half-time appointment makes it particularly attractive.
But I’ve not gone yet – and our main focus over these coming weeks is obviously going to be on Advent, followed immediately by Christmas.
Revd. Tony Windross