Do you remember that feeling as a child, counting the days until the holiday arrived? And in that waiting period, the speculation … what will be it like? Will it live up to the description in the brochure?
“I have read the G7 Benefice Profile so many times that I could almost recite it…”
These days, of course, with modern technology at our fingertips, we can even take a 360 degree look at the bedroom, the dining room, the swimming pool etc. We can almost taste the meals … but not quite! Even so, as we approach our destination, there is a sense of excitement balanced with apprehension.
I don’t know about you as you wait to receive your new Incumbent after the long wait, but excitement balanced with apprehension pretty much sums up my feelings as I prepare to move. I have read the G7 Benefice Profile so many times that I could almost recite it and yet these are just descriptions, words on a page. It is the people who belong to these communities who will tell the real stories, stories that will make the descriptions come alive. I look forward to coming among you and beginning to learn your stories and to starting to journey with you.
So who am I and what might I bring? I proudly own my Yorkshire heritage although I have to confess that I left Yorkshire to move to the Midlands when I was only three. Throughout my primary and secondary education I developed an interest in all things musical, learning to play the piano, violin, organ and flute going on to the University of Nottingham where I studied music specialising in singing. I adore opera and apologise in advance to the people of Charing if the windows are open on hot summer days!
Following a further year of training, I joined the staff of a Convent School in Southampton where I taught music for ten years. It was during this time that I met and married Stephen who was in the final part of his medical degree at Southampton University. A move to Oxford, where Stephen completed his training to be a GP, saw the increase of the family, first with our daughter Becki followed two years later by twins Chris and Andy. Time has passed quickly and all have now flown the nest with one in Iona, one in Sheffield and one currently in Hong Kong but due to return to Durham later this year.
People ask me if I have always wanted to be a Priest. I’m not sure that ‘want to’ comes into it, but there was most certainly a growing inner compulsion over many years that propelled me into the discernment process and ultimately led to selection and training and finally to ordination in Canterbury Cathedral in 2003. For four years I was a Curate in St. Dunstan’s Church in Cranbrook, a church with a good mix of traditional and contemporary worship where I gained much valuable experience. Then came a move to take up a position as House for Duty Priest in the 6 churches known as the A20 Group, a cluster of rural churches on the east side of Ashford. This has been an extremely happy four years during which many new ministries have emerged and new teams have been formed. I have found that one of the benefits of ministering in a multi-parish benefice is the variety of services that are possible. I find myself as comfortable in the dignity and solemnity of 1662 Evensong as I do in Informal Worship Services but also embrace the wonderful flexibility of Common Worship liturgy.
In addition to my role as a Parish Priest, I am one of a team of Assistant Diocesan Directors of Ordinands working alongside the DDO helping to discern new vocations to the ordained Ministry. It is such a privilege to walk alongside people in their journey of faith as they test their calling, if not to ordained ministry then almost certainly to another ministry in the church.
So, what do I bring? I bring a willingness to work hard, a desire to walk alongside, a passion to discern and nurture new ministries, a commitment to build an effective team and a deep longing to share the love of Christ through worship, word and action. At the end of the day, I bring myself and I pray that you will celebrate the strengths and graciously accept the weaknesses.
I hope that very soon I will have the opportunity to meet you all*.
*Sheila will be licensed as Rector of The G7 Benefice at a licensing service at St Peter & St Paul’s church, Charing at 7pm on Monday 12th March