Archive for the ‘vicar’ Category

One of the things I love about Vicarage life is its unpredictability. Most of the time this is great fun – I love my morning to be interrupted by someone wanting to chat at the kitchen table, especially when there is housework to be done. But I have to confess that I find it a bit of a challenge when our Sunday evening is disturbed.

Sundays are obviously a busy day for us – the Vicar almost always preaches at all three services in our church and is often leading at a couple of them. We often have church family members over for lunch aswell, and sometimes an afternoon group for baptism preparation or something like that. So when we get to 8pm(ish) and the evening service is finished, the church locked up and the Vicar and Rocky returned to the Vicarage and the children all put to bed (though sadly not necessarily asleep now they’re a bit older) we like to be able to chat a bit, pray a bit, watch some undemanding telly, eat cheese and biscuits and drink a glass of red wine.

Our waif had a better haircut

But this week our usual routine was upset by a waif and stray with a bizarre story. Waif had come to the Vicarage at about 4pm wanting to speak to the Vicar. As our lunch guests were still here, the Vicar told him to come along to the evening service so they could chat then. And then after the service, Waif’s tale of woe came out. It involved ferries from Ireland, cash paid for tickets to the Man U-Barcelona Champions League final, B&Bs in random locations and strange train jouneys, culminating in Waif being in our parish on a Sunday evening with no money, no phone, no means of identification and needing a bed for the night.

His tale was so unbelievable, it might possibly have been true, but the main fact was that he needed somewhere to stay and was asking for our help.  I supplied the regulation cheese rolls and then we talked about accommodation. Although we have space here, accommodating complete strangers does not seem to be a wise undertaking. There is no homeless hostel in our town and not much of a chance of space being available in the Sally Army hostel in Birmingham. So in the end, the Vicar’s discretionary fund came into action. The Vicar drove him to a nearby pub with rooms, where he obtained B&B for Waif for a bargain £25.

And that was it. The Vicar returned to the Vicarage at 10pm and we ate late, went to bed late, and struggled to get started on Monday morning. All part of this strange and unpredictable life we have been called to, where the limits of our hospitality are regularly stretched. I think the Lord knew I needed a bit of a break after that though – on Monday morning we had two callers who sat drinking coffee with me so I could skive off the housework.

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Never fear – HMRC have made a teensy slip-up. They’ve posted PAYE notices with erroneous tax codes to ‘most stipendiary clergy’ according to the CofE. The Vicar’s tax free allowance had almost halved!

I thought it might dip a bit, after we spent less on gas and electricity than we anticipated last year (clergy have a special tax-free allowance on part of this due to their homes being used as a place of work). But I hadn’t thought we’d been that frugal.

So, just a bit of a clerical error, then… Perhaps something to do with the disbanding of the specialist clergy tax team which used to operate from Bradford? Who knows? I’m just glad I don’t have to think about tax for a while now – I did the forms in the summer because I have to work out the tax for Child Tax Credit anyway. In previous years I’ve done Child Tax Credit and then left the tax until January, but I actually managed to completely finish the job this year. Unusual for me, but pleasing at this stage in the year…

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I only wear my pinny for special occasions

Inspired by Steve Tilley’s list of reasons to be married to a priest I thought I’d add a Vicar’s wife’s perspective. We’ve not watched the offending episode of Rev yet – we were interrupted before viewing on iPlayer by the Vicar’s diocesan golf team partner arriving to stay over so that he and the Vicar could get an early start off to their tournament today.

Anyway, I love being a Vicar’s wife, and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. I have a husband who is serious about loving me as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5v25).
  2. We get to work as a team in all sorts of ways (hospitality, church strategy, cleaning the churchyard…)
  3. My husband is around to take kids to and from school, take them swimming and eat with the family most nights.
  4. He’s involved with the kids’ primary school and knows their teachers better than I do.
  5. I love it that he has lunch with me most days.
  6. He has to chop logs outside my kitchen window to get the fuel we need to heat our Vicarage. This is a very good view when I am washing up.
  7. He reads parenting books and works hard to help our children to grow up as believers and not to be wild and disobedient.
  8. His job comes with a huge home which is great for hospitality, even if it is a deep freeze come January.
  9. Parish life is never, ever dull.
  10. And finally, as I was told in a seminar on a Vicar’s wives conference once: ‘The advantages of midweek daytime sex cannot be overstated’.

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Well, actually, it’s not Evensong, here in our more contemporary parish. But it’s our weekly 6.30pm Evening Service. And usually, the Vicar comes home at about 8pm and spends a little time with any still wakeful children (usually the Queen, sometimes the Joker). Then he and I and Happy gather around a plate of cheese and biscuits with maybe a glass of wine or port. We might pray and then we watch some TV comedy on DVD (currently Scrubs and Outnumbered). Sometimes we say Compline together before bed (an innovation since Happy, who’s far more Anglican than we are, has joined us).

A good relaxing way to finish off a very busy day. But last night Happy was out, and this is what the Vicar did when he got back:

The Vicar hard at work

Yesterday afternoon, some local kids were ‘enjoying’ themselves by throwing gravel from our front garden all over our street whilst we were in the house. They were throwing stones at my kids in the garden at one point but once I went to sit out there in the sunshine too, they desisted.

This is just a minor annoyance, but it’s this sort of stuff which wears down folk in our area who are already exhausted by daily life. The loud music played by a neighbour late at night, the kids banging the playground gate repeatedly or throwing stones, other kids smashing glass in people’s recycling boxes, cheek, rudeness, name-calling, lack of respect. Small things, but a massive headache when you live with them day after day.

We don’t know who the gravel culprits are exactly, but we have some very good ideas. Sadly, it’s mainly kids without much to do at home, or with a home situation they like to stay away from. Sunshine is lovely in many ways but it brings out the worst behaviour in youngsters who lack good boundaries and supervision.

This morning the Vicar preached from Colossians 3&4. The tragedy is that so many local children are embittered and discouraged (Colossians 3v21).

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The Times newspaper has just published an obituary of Mark Ashton, our much-loved former vicar.

Many people have visited this site in the weeks since Mark died, and if you are looking for reflections on Mark’s life and ministry you may like to read mine or see what others had to say – I’ve collected blog posts from around the world, reflecting the way in which Mark touched so many.

You might also wish to order a copy of Mark’s book ‘On My Way to Heaven’ (you can read the text of the book in Evangelicals Now), or read details (with links to audio and video recordings) of the Thanksgiving Service that took place at StAG. The Ashton Thanksgiving Fund was set up in Mark’s memory – do give if you too benefitted from the ministry of this servant of God.

[Edit: Urban Pastor Richard Perkins has also paid tribute to Mark.]

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A few other folk have been posting their memories of Mark Ashton around the blogosphere:

June’s edition of Evangelicals Now contains a short obituary from Jonathan Fletcher.

Adrian Warnock has posted Jonathan Carswell’s tribute to Mark.

Roger Pearse remembers Mark as ‘one of the best of men’.

Rachel is also grateful for Mark’s ministry.

Thankful American Episcopalian Philip Wainwright remembers Mark’s commitment to parish ministry.

St Stephen’s Church, where Mark led the youth group in the 1980s pay tribute.

Phillip Sweeting owes Mark ‘a huge debt of thanks’.

Ronnie Stevens remembers Mark as a great preacher, ‘one of those rare impressive men who was wholly unimpressed with himself’.

Steve Tilley is grateful for Mark’s contribution to youth work when he was head of CYFA.

Clifford Swartz in New York pays tribute to Mark’s vitality and faith

Phil Ritchie led on a CYFA venture with Mark and remembers him with thankfulness

The Cambridge Evening News have an item

William Black in Kenya remembers the power of Mark’s preaching

Josiah also remembers Mark’s preaching with gratitude

Gavin McGrath remembers Mark’s patience, care and insight.

David Thomson, Bishop of Huntingdon talks about how Mark’s final months have been lived wholeheartedly in gospel witness. [And gives a tribute.]

John Allister posts an extract from Mark’s letter in a recent church magazine where he talks about getting ready for heaven.

John Richardson recalls Mark’s distaste for church politics.

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A dear friend called us this morning with the news that Mark Ashton had died. Mark, the Vicar of St Andrew the Great (StAG) in Cambridge, was my vicar for more than eight years and married me to my husband. His ministry was hugely influential in my life as it was in the lives of countless others. When I looked around the room at the recent clergy wives’ conference I attended, I saw many who I knew had benefitted from Mark’s clear preaching and humble, energetic leadership.

It was so like Mark to die at a time when his congregation would have their minds turned to the resurrection of the dead. To point people to the Lord Jesus and the hope that is found in him. I’ve been thanking God for Mark’s life and praying for Fiona and the children, the congregation of StAG and the many others who loved Mark, knowing that our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1v3).

I remember very clearly being interviewed by Mark in connection with my leadership of the youth group at the church. I was only 21 at the time, and even more strong-minded than I am now, so you will have to understand that Mark’s word to me went straight to the heart of the matter: ‘You’re proud’ he told me. He was the first person to tell me what I so needed to hear.

A few years later, at my wedding, Mark referred to that interview again. He advised the Vicar that he’d have to be strong to handle me. And he (correctly) told the congregation that at that interview ‘she spent two hours telling me how to run the church’. He knew me well and helped me to know myself and the Lord.

Recently I came across this YouTube clip of Mark talking about his final illness and explaining the gospel, clearly (and loudly) as ever – it makes me smile and helps me to remember why I’m grateful for his ministry:

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Do they spend all day in their pinnies? Do they really wear twin sets and pearls?

I am pleased to report that I do have the definitive answer for you. Reminded by my friend, Alex, when she commented on the collective noun for clergy wives, I can exclusively reveal that clergy wives wear the following:
These girls are doing good impressions of Vicar's wives.This is a pretty standard clergy wife necklace - I have one myself

  • Gilets
  • Colourful beaded necklaces

On the ministers’ wives conference I attended, these were the predominant fashion themes. The gilets are obviously driven by the sub-Arctic temperatures in most Vicarages. The necklaces probably point to a love of  jewellery and cheerfulness and a lack of budget. I have three gilets and many cheerful necklaces, myself.

I did see a single twin set and pearls outfit, but as there were 115 of us there, I think it can be confidently put down as a random occurence.

On a related note, if you could confidently share with me the correct pronounciation of ‘gilet’, I would be very grateful. I’ve been struggling and think that ‘bodywarmer’ is just too hideous a word for everyday usage.

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There were 115 minister’s wives at the conference I attended last week. It made me wonder what the collective noun for such a gathering would be:

And we're all as glamorous as Elisa too!

  • An encouragement of vicar’s wives?
  • A chatter of pastor’s wives?
  • A manse of minister’s wives?
  • A hoot of parson’s wives?
  • A Sunday lunch of clergy wives?

What do you think?

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Vicarage life was particularly fulltime before half term – one of those frantic seasons that hit you from time to time in ministry. The Vicar was out of the house more than in and even his days off seemed to include aspects of work.

So it was with a great sense of relief that we began our half term holiday with a wedding, followed by a stay with friends – another clergy family who have recently moved to Essex.Make sure you pack it every time

When the Vicar family go away I usually write a list of essential activities to be completed and items to be packed before departure. The failure to do this was my first mistake.

A few miles from home I realised that we’d forgotten sleeping bags for the children. These were needed for our stay with our friends. From the wedding reception we called the EssexRectors and they said they could easily find other bedding. Phew.

One lovely wedding and reception later we headed off to Essex, still in our wedding finery, arriving in time for a late dinner. The Vicar unpacked the bags. ‘But where’s your stuff, Vicar’s Wife?’

Then it dawned on me. The pink bag, with all my favourite clothes packed for holiday, was still on our bed at home. Crippled by my wedding shoes I’d come downstairs with only a few lighter items, meaning to ask the Vicar to fetch my bag…

Mrs EssexRector very kindly took me to a localish Tescos for a forage for emergency knickers, socks, jeans and top. I needed something to wear other than my smart but not exactly comfy wedding outfit.

It was only the next day that we realised that the Vicar too had forgotten his socks, and the Joker (having packed his own bag without supervision) had come away with trousers and t-shirts but no underwear. We spent more time shopping this holiday than we were intending.

Don’t let me pack for holiday without a list ever ever ever again.

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