As the congregation arrived at St Mary’s church in Easton on Sunday, they left their umbrellas at the door and entered the sunny atmosphere inside as the the church filled with people delighted be there to celebrate the licensing of Alex as the new priest in charge of the Parish of the Itchen Valley. The people of the parish already know and love Alex and Lucy, they value their strong faith and are grateful for their deep and continuing commitment to the people of this community and that was evident in the warmth with which they were both welcomed into their new roles.
The churchwardens had planned everything with great care, with a band of volunteers directing cars into driveways on Church Lane that that had kindly been made available for the large number of guests. The church had been splendidly decorated with beautiful cream flower arrangements and the building brimmed with happiness as it filled up with parishioners and Alex’s family and friends.
The service was led by Bishop David, and Alex was presented by the Rural Dean, Graham Bowkett. The hymns were a fitting blend of the traditional and the new, the modern ones led beautifully and poignantly by Alex and Lucy’s daughters, Claudia and Marina, as part of the band. It was very special to see them supporting their father by playing such a central role in the service.
Bishop David described how unusual Alex’s answers had been during his interview. Never having had a candidate reference his answers from the Bible before, he was struck by how the words of the third chapter of John were central to Alex’s calling. This passage was read powerfully by Jane Anderson in the service and was the subject of his sermon. He observed that Nicodemus, like Alex, had had a successful career in law before being transformed and redirected after meeting Jesus and he anticipated that Alex’s time here would be one of transformation for the parish and the people in it.
Following the licensing ceremony, members of the congregation came forward to present Alex with symbols of ministry: water from the Terhalle Family, a Bible from the Grieg Family, a prayer book from Gail Mann, olive oil from Helen Wayne and bread and wine from Liz and John Platt.
He was then formally greeted by representatives of the various community groups. They all spoke warmly of their delight at his appointment, their appreciation of his work in the parish so far and their anticipation of an exciting future. The Deanery Synod was represented by David Anderson, Little Rainbows by the Hunt Family and The Ark and UTX by George Turner and Jess Cragg, who spoke appreciatively of ‘our amazing new rector’. Mark Stent gave a heartfelt welcome on behalf of Cameo and Father Mark Hogan, representing the Roman Catholic community, expressed how he was looking forward to working with Alex to expand the Kingdom of God. Schools in area were represented by Beccy Clark on behalf of Itchen Abbas Primary School and by Penelope Kirk the headmistress of Princes Mead School. Both expressed great appreciation for the time Alex has already spent with the children in both schools. Ina Williams welcomed Alex on behalf of Easton Village Hall and looked forward to extending her repertoire of gluten-free cakes for him at a Brew with a View. Representing local farmers, Robert Sutcliffe presented Alex with a small sheaf of wheat as down payment on any possible future tithes required of him! Alex was also welcomed by Jackie Porter, our county councillor, Kim Gottlieb, our City Councillor and Patrick Appleby, our Parish Council Chairman.
After the service, Alex and Lucy had generously laid on a party for everyone present, so the pews were moved back and everyone was able to celebrate together the opening of a new chapter for the parish.
It is very unusual for a new rector and his wife to be loved, admired and respected by the parish before he has even taken up the position. We are all delighted to welcome Alex and Lucy to their new roles. They have already brought us huge blessings and we look forward with excitement to what is to come.
Welcome Alex and Lucy!
Article kindly submitted by Sonia Cragg and photos by James Greig
A PDF of the Service Sheet is available to view here