On to the Interregnum and beyond!
With the coming of November and the imminent arrival of winter, now is an appropriate time to reflect over the past year. Last October, all of us at St Mary's were surprised to hear that our chaplain Alja had decided to retire. Your wardens faced the coming year, 2017 with some trepidation. Why may some of you ask? Well, we were all right until we found we would have to manage the chaplaincy, find locums, look for a new chaplain and finally request our bishop to appoint a suitable candidate.
Locums were the priority. Otherwise, leading Morning Prayer services would fall to us. That is not entirely true as we have Simone Yallop at St Mary's Chapel. Not only is she a fount of knowledge on the Church of England, but she is also a Lay Reader in Training. Simone was willing and able to lead Morning Prayer, which she did, on the 1 January, the first service of 2017.
The Rev Andrew Haig from Kings Lyn, Norfolk, paid a return visit and gave us three beautiful, warm services in January. Our much loved former chaplain, the Rev Geoffrey Alan, and Simone alternated services throughout February. Also in February, the wardens and the treasurer met the new Arch Deacon for West Europe, the Venerable Dr. Paul Vrolijk over lunch in the Hut. Paul's visit was most welcome, chiefly because he listened to our aims for the chaplaincy and then helped us to look into ways for us to achieve them.
A suggestion we all liked was to look to our locums for the new chaplain. The proposal was that we see if any of the locums is interested in taking on a new appointment. We arrange for the priest to work as a locum for a couple of months. Enough time to allow both congregation and priest to get to know each other. Then if both sides agreed, an application could be made to the bishop to have the locum appointed as the chaplain. Having given the wardens and the treasurer much to think on, Paul kindly accepted an invitation to the Social Evening. There he met the congregation and appeared to enjoy himself as much as all who were there.
Andrew was welcomed back in March, working with Simone to give us three Eucharist services and a Morning Prayer. This time he came with his wife Brigitte, who, with dry humour and fascinating stories proved to be a well-liked guest. We learned to appreciate Andrew's trick of departing from the pulpit after posing a question, which left us to find our answers.
Simone and Geoffrey covered the first half of April. Geoffrey led us in moving services on both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Simone guided participants through a fantastic Seder Supper and on Good Friday, a melancholic, beautiful Stations of the Cross. The Sunday after Easter saw the return of yet another old friend, the Rev David Mumford from the Episcopal Church in Scotland. Ironically, his first service was on the 23 April, St Georges Day, the patron saint of England. Over a period of four weeks, David happily looked after the chaplaincies spiritual needs, both in the chapel and on pastoral visits.
On the 21 May, there was a new face on the altar with the arrival of Canon Richard Capper, formerly of Norwich Cathedral. A genial, gentle vicar, Richard and his charming wife Angela were quickly made welcome and settled in for the next four weeks. On the 21 May, Richard was also the first locum to officiate at the series of choral Evensong held in New Sion Abby in Diepenveen. With all his experience of working in cathedrals, Richard was a commanding presence.
By June, everyone in St Mary's Chapel appeared to be enjoying the interregnum with the variety of visiting locums. Already, the question was being asked, 'When are we getting a new chaplain'? Everyone though was more than happy to welcome yet another well-known face in the form of the Rev. Steve Collis accompanied by his wife, Kath.
The Rev Steve quickly established his unique style on the services. An uplifting sermon followed by a mass organized singsong at the end of the service. The point where Kath came in to her own, working around the Hut meeting as many people as possible and chatting away or intently listening while enjoying coffee. By the end of July, the congregation was sad to see them go. Again, the question, 'Can we have Steve as our chaplain'?
August was an exciting month with the return of the Norfolk locums. Rev Richard took the first two weeks before handing the pulpit over to the Rev Andrew. For the first time during the interregnum, there were two vicars on site at the same time. Up to now, Simone had led a service Morning Prayer between the locum's visits. Although Richard and Andrew had known each other for years, their wives had never met. Thus, there was one Sunday when both couples were at St Mary's Chapel together, getting to know each other. It was great being in the Hut sharing the experience with them.
The Castle Fair, as everyone at St Mary's Chapel knows is the highlight of the chaplaincies social life. It was also an opportunity to meet the Revd Canon Brian Rodford. The new locum arrived soon after the fair started and stayed to the end of the day. Throughout the day, Brian met as many people as possible, helping where he could. The next morning, the first Sunday of September Canon Rodford officiated and preached and proved to be pretty much an instant success.
By Canon Rodford's third Sunday, the question came repeatedly. 'Can we have him as our chaplain'? On that Sunday, Brian's partner Tony attended the service and over coffee in the Hut, he was warmly welcome. The following Sunday the chaplaincy celebrated a Dedication Service to mark the thirtieth anniversary of chaplaincy. Our Arch Deacon the Ven. Dr. Paul Vrolijk kindly agreed to come up for the weekend. On Saturday Paul met both Congregation and Council members to discuss the possibility of Brian becoming our chaplain. On Sunday, Brian officiated at the Eucharist service and Paul preached.
So can we have Brian as our next chaplain? Well, Brian would like to be our next chaplain. The Chaplaincy Council would like Brian to be the next chaplain. Over several weeks, Council members surveyed the congregation, person by person, coming away satisfied that a substantial majority wanted Brian appointed as the new chaplain. Therefore, the next question has to be, 'How do we achieve this?'
Working together, as usual, the wardens prepared an application and submitted it to our Archdeacon. Paul, in turn, will discuss our application with Bishop Robert. Canon Rodford is then invited to Brussels to meet the Bishop. Having met our candidate, read our report and met Brian, Bishop Robert then has to decide whether Canon Rodford becomes the next Chaplain of St Mary's Weldam. If the Bishop approves Brian's appointment, then the licensing of the new chaplain would probably take place early next year.
Blair Charles and Jeanet Luiten