On an idyllic summer afternoon and evening on Friday, we were able to enjoy a Parish Party – in three phases – to celebrate Alex and Lucy Pease’s ministry in the Itchen Valley over the last nine years and to wish them well for the future, happily still amongst us as friends and neighbours for the long-term.
A total of 90 guests were able to join in the festivities, in separate groups of 30 and with appropriate timings of arrivals and departures and great care taken to ensure the groups did not mix. The limited numbers at each party had the great advantage of giving the guests (most importantly Alex and Lucy) the opportunity to enjoy in-depth conversations, ones that a larger gathering might not have allowed. After the long months of suspension of social life during lock-downs, the sheer pleasure of these conversations and of almost normal interaction (as social distancing was observed) proved a very welcome feature of each party.
The parties were generously and graciously hosted by Theo and Judith Mezger, whose walled garden at their home in Easton provided a perfect setting for them. Theo and Judith’s care and forethought in making arrangements and very hard work in bringing them to life meant that each party, while beautifully organised, had a relaxed atmosphere.
Very generous provision of delicious and varied food as well as wine and other refreshments also contributed to a real sense of occasion, but the most moving and memorable aspects of each party were speeches given by several members of the Parish congregations, PCC and Ministry Team saluting Alex and Lucy and their most successful ministry in the Itchen Valley. Alex and Lucy themselves also responded, again with very touching and inspiring remarks, the texts of which can be found below.
As expressions of our gratitude Alex and Lucy received a number of gifts, the most notable of which was a magnificent glass bowl engraved with words of appreciation and Bible verses as well as superb renderings of the four churches of the Valley. The artist Philip Lawson-Johnston (who holds the Royal Warrant for glass engraving) completed the work, which will clearly be treasured by the Pease family (special thanks are due to Robin and Gilly Greenwood for working with the artist to design this gift).
The parties would not have been possible without the help of numerous parishioners who prepared food and acted as marshals and sommeliers — many thanks are extended now to them. As ever Beccy Clark was the key hidden hand in the organisation of such successful events and Sara Mason played a crucial role (as she has throughout the last 15 months) in constructing a thorough, practical plan to make the parties possible within the boundaries of Covid-related restrictions.
Further photos of the parties will be posted during the coming week.
Alex’s words as follows:
Thank you so much for such kind words Theo. I too have some words to say (but not many don’t worry). I will try not to sound…like someone receiving an Oscar.
Firstly and most importantly, I want to say thank you to Lucy who has supported and encouraged me throughout the journey of ordination from 2005 when we first started on the path with a two year evening course at Wycliffe College Oxford, and then through the clergy selection process and through three years at St Mellitus College in London with the endless essays and weekend training, followed by the four years curacy here, two years as assistant priest and three years as rector. Without you my darling nothing that we have done would have been possible.
Then I want to thank all of you here in the Itchen Valley, our friends and neighbours. Theo and Judith for your hospitality this evening, Beccy our wonderful Parish Administrator, The Ministry Team, the PCC and so many individuals each of you here who have become friends, too numerous to mention. Thank you for such an amazing journey which we have enjoyed so much and for your kindness and encouragement.
And I want to thank the Lord for using us in his perfect timing as the right person, at the right time in the right place, to grow his Kingdom here.
A few days ago, on a walk, someone said to me when mentioning my successor how fortunate we had been to find someone to replace me so quickly while other parishes were being combined and vicars were not being replaced. ’Someone must have pulled a string’ He said.
The reason that we have a successor coming here so quickly after my departure is that we are in many ways a model rural parish because of what all of you have done since your merger as a single parish. We have become what the church calls, using Archbishop Rowan William’s expression ‘A mixed economy parish’ which is one church community with two ways of worshipping God. We have the traditional inherited church and the fresh expression of more contemporary worship sharing facilities and leadership.
But actually we are even closer than that as so many of you attend both expressions of church and you all (both groups) carry the administrative and cost burden of the parish between you.
This approach of doing things is so exciting and I believe reflects a model (to use the Diocesan lingo) of ‘sustainability for the common good’ which has attracted the attention of the Bishops and enabled us to find a successor very fast.
More importantly, the fact that all of you have been so encouraging, have not moaned to the Diocese about anything, have worked together so well have been so unified, releases I believe the blessings that God wants to pour out on all his churches.
I always look for evidence of God working in events; for reassurance that we are on the right path.
I look for his fingerprints and the fact that Revd Peter Walker, my successor, taught Lucy and I back in 2005 at Wycliffe when we first started on this journey of ordination, is a sure sign to me that this parish is on the right track. And that we can expect amazing things to happen here in a future which Lucy and I look forward to being part of as fellow parishioners.
Thank you so much and bless you.
And some words from Lucy:
Just so you know none of this was ever our plan!!
When Alex was first exploring his calling, we were very happily and well established in our home and life in Kilmeston, after previously having moved half a dozen times here and abroad for his career in the law. We weren’t going anywhere!
Our plan was for him just to be able to help out where we were. God had other plans!
Our plan was for Alex to explore non-stipendiary, local ministry – God’s plan was for him to be trained for full-time ministry for reasons which we simply didn’t understand.
Our plan was for Alex to work out his curacy in The Upper Itchen Benefice – God’s plan saw to it that he came to the Itchen Valley Parish to do that.
Our plan was to never move again and be carried out of Manor Farm House in a box – God’s plan was that we sell our house and move to Gardener’s Cottage in Chilland!
Our plan was to for Alex to assist the Rector here part-time – God’s plan was for Alex to be made Rector, which God managed to accomplish in an extraordinarily creative way.
Our plan was to live renting Chilland Ford by the river forever – God’s plan was to find us a house, some security, during full lock-down in a global pandemic and in the nick of time, to call our own.
Our plan was to continue in the ministry for as long as the parish wanted us to – God has another plan.
All I can say is that our plans are rubbish and God’s plans are wonderful, exciting, adventurous and humbling.
Thank you all so much for your support, encouragement, friendship and love, not just for Alex but for me personally, and for giving us the opportunity to enter in to your lives which has been the most incredible privilege.
You have all blessed us in more ways than we could ever have imagined. We are very excited about God’s future plan for this beautiful and unique parish and for all you very lovely and special people, whom we love very much.