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Staying Connected

I can’t quite believe that we’re saying goodbye to Dawn Stamper on Sunday. Dawn has been such a valued member of our clergy team since her ordination to serve here 10 years ago. After starting out as a curate at Willesborough, she has been the priest and pastor for Christ Church and then Kennington. She has given so generously of her time to the mission and ministry of the church. I knew Dawn when she was studying theology in preparation for ordained ministry, and it’s been a great joy for me personally to connect with her again as a colleague here.

We will miss Dawn for who she is as a person and a priest. But her departure also marks the end of the brief period we have had – since Charlotte arrived in the summer – of enjoying seven post-curacy clergy in the parish, one for each of our seven church communities. We knew it might not last. Now we know it won’t – and there’s no immediate prospect of that changing. So what happens? Do we expect one church community to be in semi-permanent vacancy, or maybe take it in turns? Or do we need to look to a different model of ministry from that of one priest for one church community? Does that affect just one priest in our team, who has to stretch to two church communities, or does there need to be a wider reimagining of all our roles?

Our parish is a family of churches, and that means that we’re connected to one another. Sometimes that will feel really helpful, sometimes it may feel constraining, and sometimes we might just not notice. But we are connected. Kennington isn’t on its own from the first Sunday in March: it’s part of our parish, served by our parish teams, including the admin team and the clergy team. We’ll make sure that services and other key activities continue to be supported.

Because we’re connected, this is something for members of other churches to know about too, and offer support where they can, including prayer. None of our clergy has ‘spare time’ that they can now allocate to Kennington, so some will be doing less in their current roles. And that’s as it should be. We’re a family of churches, and we’re connected. What happens to one member of the family affects all the others.

Because we’re connected, we also need to think and pray together about the right model of ministry for the next phase in our journey as the Church of England in this town. I’m not expecting to arrive at any clear answers about all that until after I come back from sabbatical in the summer, but it’s important that none of us see what’s happening at Kennington as ‘their’ problem only. It’s our challenge, together, and we know that the Lord is with us.

Connection is important – communion, to use a more theological word. And while it will be sad to say goodbye to Dawn on Sunday, connections will continue, and the communion we have in Christ endures.

The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen

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