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Introduction to Paolo’s arrival

Last week at a meeting in St. Albans one of the people there came up to me over coffee to chat and began by saying “Ah, Steve I see you are getting a curate.” We continued the conversation but later on I began pondering the language of the question wondering if it were quite right.

It seems to me you could say to someone: “I hear you are getting a (new) car,” but maybe not “I hear you are getting a (new) baby.”

Now Paolo is neither a car nor a baby but the point is that I am not sure I like the feeling of the word getting. To explore what might be better it is helpful to remind ourselves of who a curate is, what their ideas and intentions may be and how we, St. Margaret’s, fit in with that. Paolo and his fellow first year curates will be ordained deacons on July the 3rd in St. Albans abbey. For them this is a culmination and a beginning. The culmination of years of thinking about possible ministry in the church, of then at least a couple of years of formal exploration, the tension of presenting yourself for selection at a Bishop’s panel, followed then by three years of academic study, practical training and ongoing assessment of suitability.

At last, after all that the Bishop will lay his hands upon them:

“Send down your Holy Spirit on your servant, N, for the office and work of deacon in your church.”

So begins a new way of life as an ordained person – as I write in this month’s magazine about deacons, they are set apart, to work alongside bishops and priests as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. Paolo will go into the cathedral with his white stole over his arm and during the service it will be tied on him, across his chest, to remind him and everyone that he is now ordained. Every curate coming out of the abbey that morning will be a gift; a gift to the church as a whole, and in Paolo’s case a gift to St. Margaret’s in particular.

This gift is much more like a baby than a car (but maybe you shouldn’t tell him I said that!).

So I want to say we will be receiving a curate – yes that’s much better. We will receive a curate with great joy, he will bring us great pleasure and we will have a responsibility for Paolo who will be with us for not less than three years and maybe more. Our mission in that time is:

To teach, encourage and enable Paolo to be an excellent priest capable of serving the church anywhere in the Anglican Communion.”

Notice I say it is our mission – we are all part of this and as we live together we will benefit from his character, his experience and learning which will enrich our church life. We are already fortunate to have Paul and Teresa and between the four of us there will be individual nuances, interpretations, skills and strengths. Together we pray that there will be a valuable texture to be enjoyed.

In the book of Exodus there is a moment when Moses is training Joshua and he sends him into battle against Amalek and his army. Moses stays at the top of a hill to watch the progress raising his hands in prayer and support. When his hands are raised the battle goes the way of Joshua but the battle is long and when Moses’ hands become weary,they fall and the battle swings in favour of the enemy. Aaron and Hur who are on the hill with Moses noticing this each take one of Moses hands and raise them together. Of course Joshua came through.

On Sunday the 17th July we will celebrate our Patronal festival, thinking about St. Margaret’s church and it’s place in the community, pondering perhaps the story of the dragon. It will as usual be at 10.30 so that all our congregations can come together and what better occasion could there be to welcome Paolo to his first service with us, begin to benefit from his presence and to pray for his time with us for praying is something we can all do.

Amen

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