Parish Magazine on-line March – April ‘22
Find the Parish magazine online here.
From our Curate – Revd. Mark Neave
It only seems like yesterday that Rose and I first arrived at the Rectory in South Tawton at the beginning of my curacy – hard to believe that it was actually two and a half years ago! How time flies when you are enjoying yourself!
But, in the immortal words of Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘all good things must come to an end’ and having had my curacy objectives signed off by Bishop Robert last year, I am now in search of gainful employment. Not that we want to leave – our time in South Tawton and the North Dartmoor parishes has been amazing; but sadly, Paul has not been able to persuade the powers that be to create a permanent post for me here!
Because of financial constraints, made worse by the pandemic, vacancies in the Diocese of Exeter have been rather thin on the ground of late – particularly in the rural locations I feel called to – so at the moment we have no clear idea where we will be headed. But I have a meeting scheduled with Bishop Nick and the Archdeacon at the end of February which will hopefully start to clarify things – and by the time you read this we may well know where we are going. We will certainly still be here through Lent and Easter and are then away in Canada during late April/early May. When we return, it may then be just a few weeks before we have to start packing!
Our time with you has been memorable, in so many ways. Celebrating my ordination (twice); presiding at my first Eucharist; conducting my first weddings and baptisms; sharing the major festivals at Christmas and Easter with you – the list is endless. We might have expected that the pandemic and lock-down would put a damper on my curacy, but even that has brought its own blessings – the Food Bank in South Tawton, and enduring on-line activities like Celtic Evening Prayer, and the on-line worship, which have taken on a life of their own, even as we begin to move away from Covid restrictions.
But, in truth, it is not those events that will live longest in our memories, important though they were. It’s just the being here and being part of these communities (both church-goers, and the ‘fringe’), that has been so special. From day one, you have all made us feel so welcome, and been so generous with your time and your friendship. And, of course, this particular corner of Dartmoor is so beautiful, in all its moods and through all the seasons. Which all makes moving on so difficult – how can anywhere else compare?
I feel that I ought to leave you with some parting words of wisdom – but what to say? We all face many challenges in the coming months and years, with ageing congregations, squeezed finances and reduced numbers of clergy – particularly in rural areas, where the response is to create yet larger Benefices and Mission Communities. But if I have learned one thing from my time here, however the organisation of the rural church is sliced and diced, the parish will always be at its heart – and if we ever lose sight of that, then we are in trouble.
Next Steps strategies and larger Mission Communities may help us to operate more efficiently; but if the parish is not at the very heart of what we do, then how can we effectively be that Christian presence within the communities in which we live, and which we serve? It’s not a numbers game. We are called to be like yeast in our communities. When yeast acts in dough, it doesn’t turn the whole of the batch into yeast but transforms the whole into something lighter and more palatable. In the same way, it only takes a small number within each parish, reflecting the love of Jesus, to transform the communities around them, and improve the quality of life for all.
It’s not quite time to say goodbye – there will, no doubt, be plenty of opportunities for that over the coming weeks and months – but please accept a heart-felt thank you from both Rose and me for all that you have done for us, and for just being you.