On Monday the interregnum at St James finally came to an end with the licencing and collation of Rev Dr Richard Warden as our new priest-in-charge. I had planned to write about the service earlier in the week, but Iâ€™ve been waiting for the video to be loaded up online so I could link to it. At this point it still hasnâ€™t appeared, so Iâ€™m posting my thoughts anyway.
Interestingly it was the first licencing service Iâ€™d been to, as the services I had attended before were induction services as the priests were being given the freehold to the parish. Technically Richard cannot be called Rector or Vicar as he is only priest-in-charge, currently the diocese has suspended the living in our parish â€“ and may others locally, so they employ a priest to fulfil the roles usually carried out by the Rector or Vicar. The priest is employed on a five year contract that is renewed after five years subject to the agreement of the parish, the priest and the diocese. It is also possible for the diocese to give the priest-in-charge the freehold, ending the suspension, as has happened in some other local parishes.
Anyway, back to the service. Not unexpectedly everybody was keen that the service would be absolutely right, especially with the Archdeacon, the new Bishop of Reading and a number of other clergy in attendance. As a result there were the usual frustrations of people doing things, and then someone else changing them. For example I helped out by putting out chairs in the parish centre for the overspill from the church, who watched the service on a big screen. (The Bishop described them as â€˜the cheap seatsâ€™) I put out as many chairs as I could, which I did double check before I did it. However when I came in on Monday night half the chairs had been put away again! There was also the ongoing candle and altar positioning â€“ seemingly every time I went into the church on Sunday and Monday there were different numbers of candles on the altars. In the end we used the side altar as the main altar, positioned in the centre of the chancel with the choir behind, and the main altar was moved from the sanctuary into the parish centre. The normal candlesticks from the main altar went with the altar as they are really too big for the side altar â€“ however the silver cross obstructed the projector so remained in the church. In addition the old lectionary that usually sits on the side altar went over the parish centre and was placed on the main altar. On the side altar in the church we had the smaller pair of oil â€˜candlesâ€™ (basically oil burners in a long white tube) on the altar, and the acolytes carried the other two instead of their usual torches. The two torches went over to the parish centre and stood either side of the altar. Choir wise we had practiced all Sunday afternoon, although I was still pretty nervous about having to sing a solo â€“ the first significant solo Iâ€™ve done since my voice broke!
I arrived straight from work at just after 6pm. This meant that I managed to get in before the car parking attendants turned up, so the car was up in the main car park rather than in the rather soggy field opposite the church that we use for big events. Oddly enough I was fairly closely followed by the two press reporters â€“ one from the Bracknell News, the other from the Wokingham Times. The Bracknell News photographer was only around until just after Richard arrived, however the Wokingham Time photographer hung around until the service started, so got a great shot of Richard and the Bishop which is on the front page of the Wokingham Times this week!
The church was absolutely packed, and very warm, although only one chorister didnâ€™t make it until the end. The Bishop preached a good sermon, starting with the words â€œIâ€™m returning to a favourite topic â€“ things I would like to change about the bible!â€? â€“ Probably a fair bet that would be a theme in his next book! Music wise the Youth Group item went off without a hitch, although many people said that they couldnâ€™t really hear it all that well. However due to various logistical problems we ended up doing â€˜Rejoice In The Lord Alwaysâ€™ with everybody listening, and me stood out the front for the solo. The problem with the anthem from a nerves point of view is that there are very long organ sections between the singing, as a result there are long periods for me to worry about the solo. As it was by the time it got to the interlude before my solo, I couldnâ€™t hold the music in my left hand without it shaking! Anyway, we got through the anthem, in fact all the music, without any real problems at all. We had a number of people come up and say well done, and the Bishop hadnâ€™t realised the size of our choir and thought it was an augmented choir formed for the service. (In fact we were four people short!) I wonâ€™t bother to go into any more detail, as hopefully youâ€™ll be able to see the service online sometime soon.
The main thing is that Richard seemed to really enjoy the service, and again seemed particularly touched at how much had been done for him. I guess this is one of the trade-offs between being a chaplain and having a parish. He seems to have jumped straight in, and in this first week after the service on Monday, had a standing committee meeting on Tuesday, came to a planning meeting for the Deanery Youth Weekend with me on Wednesday, and then did a Baptism preparation session and came to part of choir practice last night. I think one of the most important things we as a parish have to do is to remember that he has a family, and make sure that his workload is properly managed and we donâ€™t expect him to do too much.