From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith
None of my family were churchgoers and I first had contact with the church when, as a cub scout, I had to attend the monthly church parade. This resulted in somebody noticing I had a good treble singing voice and I was then persuaded to join the church choir – something I came to enjoy a good deal.
At about the age 12/13 I began to realise that the world wasn’t quite as I had previously assumed it to be. Bad things happened, innocent people suffered from war, hunger, disease and there was an awful lot about life that was terribly unfair for many people. At the same time, I was very aware that this church community I had become a part of was a very supportive community; people there cared a good deal about one another’s welfare and gave huge support when needed. I, an insignificant young teenage member of the choir, mattered to them, and was valued by them. This led me to realise that what they had was important and of great value and that the inspiration behind all of this must be of great worth. My own personal faith then began to develop as I started to investigate the life and person of Jesus Christ and in no time felt I had a real relationship with him. By the time I was sixteen I was beginning to think I may have the beginnings of a vocation to the priesthood although this was something I kept to myself. My family had other, more practical ideas as to what I should do with my life! None of my school friends went to church – after all it was the 60’s. Anything to do with the old established order was suspect – all you needed was love! So my thoughts about vocation remained private to me.
At the age of 18/19 I finally ‘came out’ and told somebody about my perceived vocation and, in no time, I was off to a selection conference and then enrolled at university to read theology, followed by time at a theological training college in Canterbury. Ordained deacon at the age of 23, I then embarked on a full time career of parish ministry in which I had charge of 5 different parishes before coming here.
I can honestly say that in each of those five parishes I found the same quality of church life, the same amount of care for each other, the same inclusive attitude to people of whatever background, I first found in my home parish back in Kingston. In addition there were always some individuals whose faith, whose commitment to church life and its support was nothing short of heroic. Often unnoticed and unsung these people were for me the saints of today.
That quality of church life is something I have no doubt I will find here in these three churches. The warm welcome and support Leslie and I have received since arriving is testimony to that already.
But what goes on inside churches doesn’t stop there. The whole point of it is that it’s taken outside into the world and society in which it is placed. As Archbishop William Temple famously said ‘The Church of England is the only society I know that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’ These three churches are here for the benefit of the whole community – church members or not. The teaching of Jesus Christ which inspires the kind of caring and supportive church community I have described is supposed to be a model for community life generally.
So what I would like to say in this my first ‘community’ letter is that I believe my ministry is to the whole community and not just its church members. Anything which contributes to a good strong and caring community life I would want to support and anybody who is in need of support of any kind I would want to offer my services to – if only to make the right connections for them.
My telephone number’s on the back page and my email address is [email protected]. Please feel to free to contact me at any time.