Recently I’ve been wondering whether it is possible to fall in love with a whole community. It’s a rhetorical question, really, because I already know the answer.
Around three years ago I found myself at the very start of my ordination training, looking for a church placement where I could learn more about what it means to be a vicar in the Church of England, and what it means to be a community of people in service to and with God. I wanted to be able to offer what I could in terms of any gifts of my own, too, of course. Having been to Rock Mass services over the previous year and come to learn a little bit about Holy Nativity, I immediately thought of Mixenden. I met with Robb, the Diocese of Leeds’ Director of Ordinands (the person responsible for those people training for ordination) and the Principal of St. Hild College where I have been studying. Robb was gracious enough to agree to my coming to Mixenden on placement and the rest, as they say…
It’s hard to express in words what I have learned and come to know and love about you, the people who make the church of Holy Nativity and its community what it is. Hand on heart, and with eyes turned up toward God, I have never been made to feel more welcome; I have never been treated so graciously when I’ve messed something up; I’ve never been so warmly thanked and congratulated when I’ve done something well; I’ve never seen a community of people so committed to one another and the Kingdom of God as you, the people I have come to know and love over the past three years.
I’ve learned from you something about what it looks like when a whole community pulls together in times of real crisis. I’ve learned from you something about what it looks like when a whole community comes together in celebration and times of joy. But perhaps, most importantly, I’ve learned something about what it looks like when a whole community seeks first the Kingdom of God and all that it entails, loving one another well and living out the Gospel every day of your lives.
So, as I prepare for ordination and moving on to my Curacy, I write this feeling a little emotional. I am deeply thankful to each and every one of you at Holy Nativity and in Mixenden for your extraordinary welcome, your gracious love and all that you have shared with me and taught me over the last three years. I may be moving on, but my heart will always be with you.
In case you were wondering, then, the answer is yes. It absolutely is possible to fall in love with a whole community. Besides, I’ll always be up for another Rock Mass. Look forward to seeing you there \m/ \m/