I feel honoured and delighted to be appointed as The Rector of our new benefice. From first learning that there was a vacancy, I felt a strong sense of God’s calling to serve you. Whilst this is an exciting time of change, I imagine that for some of you, this may be an anxious time, wondering how well the new person will live up to the hopes and expectations of the community.
In this article, I offer you a starting point in your evaluation, my back story:
I was born in 1969, a few days before the first moon landings. I grew up in West Wickham with an older brother, Andrew. My parents Jean and Terry met in the early sixties when they both worked in The City of London. My Mum devoted many years to our family life, working later as a nursery school leader and PA. Dad worked in the commodity markets until retirement. Andrew followed Dad into The City and works as a money broker. He is married with three adult children. Our family home was filled with music, laughter, and lots of pets.
Earlier this year, we four were brought back together under one roof for the final time. My mother lost her long fight against metastatic breast cancer on January 24th. With help from St Christopher’s Hospice, Andrew, Dad, and I were able to nurse Mum through her final days. As you can probably imagine, our grief is still quite raw. One of my final conversations with Mum was her expressing the sadness that she would not know where I was going to live and work next. I am certain that she would have been incredibly happy that God has called me to this benefice. Jean was truly a wonderful mother and grandmother, and I am sorry that you never had the chance to meet her.
My early life in the southeast London suburbs was typical of the time. I attended the local primary and secondary schools, enjoying academic work, especially the humanities. I engaged a lot with school music and sport, Guiding/Scouts and the care of many furry and feathered creatures. Sandbanks in Dorset was our favourite holiday destination, and we spent every Whitsun there.
In my teaching career, I spent 22 of my 25 years as a Geography teacher employed by the Girls’ Day School Trust in Croydon and Sydenham. Outside of the academic curriculum, I was for many years, the head of Personal, Social and Health Education with a particular passion for promoting positive mental health and inclusivity.
I married my university sweetheart in 1993. We lived together in Beckenham, and later in Riverhead, Sevenoaks. Our children were much longed for but took their time to join us. That I was blessed with two babies in the same pregnancy, made the long wait worthwhile. Sadly, our marriage broke down when the girls were seven. This was an enormously painful time when I learned what it is to suffer a broken heart. But through the grace of God, despite feeling abandoned, we learned how many people loved us. There is an adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Through our family, friends, and our church family we three have been upheld by our ‘village’ through difficult times. These same people have also rejoiced with us in many good times. The girls retain their father’s surname (Parker) and they have occasional contact with him. I long ago reached a place of forgiveness and I have no regrets about a marriage that gave me such beautiful children to love. Through these experiences, I have learned that there are many ways to be a family. Our unit of three is strong, and as with my birth family, we live in a house full of love and laughter. As I join your villages, I look forward to the privilege of walking alongside your families as you experience life in all its fullness.
We three are looking forward to living in the Penshurst Rectory. That said, both Sophie and Lizzie will be at university, so they will be away for much of the time in the early years. However, I will not be home alone. My constant companion is my yellow Labrador, Jessie. I should probably apologise for her over-exuberance in advance. She is a very friendly dog, but she has never grasped that there are some humans who are not really dog people. We also share our lives with Bobbie, a brown tabby cat. She is more aloof than her canine sister. There will be a further addition to our household arriving in September. Before my mother’s death, I promised her that as soon as I had more space, I would take care of Jericho, her African Grey parrot. Jericho is 33, very talkative and a source of much laughter. I have no doubt that he will offer his own form of ministry once settled. Regular visitors will be Terry, my father, his black Labrador Pippa, and Sophie’s partner, Charlie. He lives in Southborough but spends a lot of time with us.
I have not said much about my faith journey or ministry in this article. My thoughts about matters theological will be the focus of many future articles, sermons, and teaching. Mine is a simple faith. I value every person as a precious child of God and try to look at people and situations through the eyes of Jesus Christ. I am a prayerful and contemplative person; but also bring energy and a strong work ethic to ministry. I have a hunger to share the good news of our faith through action as well as words. I have received so much love from others and central to my ministry is the call to pay that forward.
From first sensing a calling to be baptised when my children were small, I have been on an exciting vocational journey with God. Ordained ministry is a joy. It is a privilege to be called to minister in Penshurst, Fordcombe and The Chiddingstones. I thank the selectors for putting their trust in me and promise to serve you with respect, integrity, a loving heart, and an open mind. With God’s help, I pray that I will be a good shepherd of the flock and a worthy custodian of the role of Rector.