Change can be good or bad, exciting or scary depending on the circumstances. Is this something that we want to happen or not? How much are we in control? Even if it’s a change we want to happen it can still be difficult or throw up things we hadn’t expected. We’re going to be experiencing some changes in our parish this year and definitely of the good variety.
In December we were very pleased to appoint the Rev’d Mary Jepp as the new associate priest for West Meon and Warnford and she was to be officially licensed on 17th May at a joint service at 10.30am in West Meon. Her licence will look a little different to the one that Lionel Stock held when he was there, though. Mary will be licensed as associate priest for West Meon and Warnford, East Meon and Langrish. That doesn’t look like much of a difference but behind that title is a shift in how our parishes are going to be working together.
You might have noticed that some of our services over the last few years have been described as joint or cluster services, particularly those Sundays when there has been a fifth Sunday. For the last couple of years we have had some shared study courses: perhaps the most obvious joint event is the Good Friday walk, when we start at either Warnford or Langrish and walk to the other end, calling in at the other churches on the way. This has been an informal relationship until last year when we began having conversations about making this more formal. Towards the end of 2019 all the churches were asked if they would like to begin the process of becoming a United Benefice and I’m pleased to say that all the churches agreed.
On the ground you will notice very little difference because this doesn’t mean becoming one big parish: all four churches will continue to have services; I will continue to be the vicar for East Meon and Langrish and we will continue to celebrate the unique contribution that each church makes to its community. But there are times when being a small church creates limits to what we can do effectively. By coming together formally we can ensure more effective ministry for the whole community, which includes pastoral cover for all parishes for seven days a week and fifty-two weeks of the year; a sharing of resources across all four parishes and avoidance of duplication in services and supplies bought in. When Mary is licensed, we will begin using our new name, ‘The Upper Meon Benefice’ and when the legal bits are all sorted, I will become Priest in Charge of the United Benefice, carrying legal responsibility for all four parishes. Both Mary and I will be licensed to work in all four churches although her primary focus will be West Meon and Warnford, mine will be East Meon and Langrish. As we look forward to this next stage of our lives together, our Archdeacon – Gavin Collins – has offered a prayer for us to use:
‘God of endings and beginnings,
we give you thanks for the life of our churches and
the faithful worshippers and ministers
who have served you and the people of our communities over many years.
Guided by your spirit of wisdom and courage
help us to take this work forward in new and exciting ways
that we might all be encouraged to.’
Live clearly as your disciples,
Pray that many more people would come to know you and your love
and Serve the world around us.
In Jesus’ name,
With best wishes,
Rev’d Jane Ball
Sadly due to the new restrictions bought in very recently and endorsed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, our churches have to remain completely shut, with no one, including vicars allowed to go in. For some this is difficult as our church is quiet and one is unlikely to meet others there. Nevertheless this is the ruling and after all Langrish Church is just a building.
Meanwhile the vicar, restricted to home as we all are, is saying Morning and Evening Prayer each day at 9 AM and 4:30 PM and invites all who wish to join her in their homes at those times. On Sundays, she is intending to say Morning Prayer and Compline using Zoom so that people can join in over the Internet.
All the Easter services and activities have been cancelled – it will seem very strange. It seems likely that we will not be able to meet together in church for several months yet.
The Vicar will keep parishioners informed of changes as they occur on either Pew News or by email and important ones affecting community will be posted on the Squeaker website or on the Friends Facebook page.