The view from East Meon
Jane Ball came to us from the Godolphin School, where she had been a much loved chaplain to the girls. She was licensed as our Vicar and installed by Bishop Christopher Foster on 1 May 2014. Little did she, or anyone, know then that she was in for a baptism of fire: with the opening of the May Fair, 2 weddings, 3 big funerals, and considerable damage from an attempted break-in to the Church – all within her first 3 weeks. Needless to say, she took all this in her stride.
At her first Christmas Eucharist in East Meon, she set a relaxed festive tone by appearing with a snowball bouncing on a spring on her hat.
Jane started some new customs:
- A church bell would ring out over the village at 0900 daily to invite people to join her for her morning prayers, after which a small group would ‘regularly go off-piste and set the world to rights’, when she would sometimes quote from a favourite film – ‘Life of Brian’.
- The Church Treasurer notes that, since Jane’s arrival, the spend on church candles has risen by 300%.
- She started a brilliant way of getting to know people socially: until lockdown, ‘Jane’s Boys’ would meet regularly in Ye Olde George for a pint and a chat.
- She led a Good Friday walk of witness through the parishes – sometimes with more dogs than humans!
- Jane would turn up in a highly fluorescent yellow top for a regular morning run with friends, one of whom says: ‘she was much faster than me and reminded me of a shooting star on those cold dark winter mornings.
Her army training sometimes led her ambitions to get the better of her:
- She was seen hobbling into church for Morning Service wearing trainers to ease blisters, having tried to run and walk the South Downs Way in 24 hours; and later appeared on crutches at the Rogation service on the top of Butser Hill.
- And it was only bad weather that thwarted her attempt to walk 75 miles in 24 hours in aid of the Royal Marines Charity.
Church Services led by Jane are always uplifting and affirming, her relaxed style and gentle sense of humour shining through. Her sermons have always been thought-provoking, and delivered with great clarity – all without notes: a remarkable gift. Bible Study discussions led by Jane are challenging and informative
In addition to her duties in East Meon and Langrish, West Meon and Warnford, Jane was also appointed as area Dean, which is a clear indication of the esteem in which she is held by the Bishop and Diocese.
A quick sense of humour is never far away. When the pilgrims she was leading met at Heathrow on their way to the Holy Land, Jane was asked if she had brought a Bible with her. She answered “No, but I have brought a bottle of gin!”
Being particularly good with children, she is very popular in our primary school. And the older children say that her confirmation classes were enormous fun – enlivened by watching the film ‘Bruce Almighty’ and eating Domino’s Pizza: ‘she is super cool’.
Jane’s husband Jonathan has always been hugely supportive but, despite being a priest himself, has never interfered.
There have been many comments about her direct and practical style of Christianity. She has made time for everyone – not just churchgoers.
Jane has been the first female priest-in-charge of East Meon in almost 1,000 years. We hope not to have to wait that long for the next!
Chris Cobley & 10 parishioners
We have been exceedingly fortunate, here in East Meon, in having been led by Jane for the past 7 years. We are very sorry to be losing her, and we wish her the very best of success and happiness in her new appointment to the school of Christ’s Hospital, Horsham – and in the years ahead.
Postscript from Langrish
Chris Cobley and his ten co-authors have provided a wonderful account of Jane’s exploits, trials and tribulations over the past seven or so years she has been with us. Kind, funny and supportive, Jane has made us feel that Langrish is as special to her as she is to us. We will miss her very much indeed, both as a fellow traveller and also as someone who has helped us understand that our being very normal human beings is not a barrier to a rich Christian faith.