Ten years ago today, Ruth and I didn’t really know what to expect for the future. We packed up our lives and our cat came to live in our new house which people referred to as “the vicarage”. Hanging in the air was the fresh smell of paint and new carpet as we awaited the arrival of my friends and family. Then Bishop Tony came and joined us at Holy Nativity to join us with the community by installing me as “The Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth™”.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about this recently because it doesn’t seem possible that we have been here for ten years. Strangely, it feels like we have been here for no time at all, but also for a whole lifetime.
The memories of that day with a church rammed full of people are quite vivid. Our brains can pick all sorts of strange things to label as important and store somewhere in a box of memories. If I was trying to score brownie points, I’d tell you what The Bishop preached about that day, but I can’t. What I remember is the welcome I received from the whole community. I remember David coming up to the lectern and welcoming me on behalf of The Scouts. Being vicar of the scout hut is a very important role. I also remember Mr Shepherd coming welcoming me to the community, and co-opting me as governor in front of an audience through the microphone. So I guess I have been a governor at Ash Green for ten years today. This is one of the most rewarding things I get to do. We are having a governors meeting tonight to celebrate this significant milestone.
When a vicar is installed in a parish, there is a “tradition” that you ring the church bell. I bet you didn’t know Holy Nativity has a bell. It lives in the little white box on top of the church roof. At a licensing, all of the clergy there count how many times you ring the bell as an indication of how many years you will stay in the parish. Our Church Warden Margaret stood next to me as I pulled the bell rope that night. Quietly she said to me “you better not stop ringing that bell”! Here we are ten years later Margaret and I haven’t stopped ringing that bell!
This last decade here in Mixenden and Illingworth has seen so much. I couldn’t do justice to our community by starting to chronicle everything we have seen or done over the years. We have had huge celebrations and have seen many amazing things happen. We have celebrated Christenings and Weddings with people as they bring new lives into the world and joined people together in their love. We have also mourned the many great losses we have had in our community, the people we love who have left a lasting impact upon us. We have united together as a community through the joys and the sorrows. We have done our best to walk in God’s path and bring the Kingdom of God here on earth as in Heaven. And through all of this we have striven to be a place that the whole community can turn to.
For ten years, I have been The Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth. For those ten years, my mind has been storing memories of our journey together that are important to Ruth and I. It seems that those memories are all of the people and the community in which we live.
God bless you all for putting up with me. I hope that it is OK with you all if I “keep ringing that bell”.