(Sunday 18 July 2021)
<strong>The Vicar made the following statement at today's services:</strong>
Dear friends, it is with a certain amount of trepidation but with trust in the Lord that I need to make the following announcement on a personal matter which will affect the life of the Parish.
The COVID pandemic has caused many of us to reassess our priorities in life, to give more time to prayer and listening to the Lord, to reading and reflection. This has been true for me and my family and somewhat to our surprise we have come to believe that the Lord is calling us into the full communion of the Catholic Church, consequently I have resigned as Vicar of Wantage.
I realise that this news will be greeted with shock, surprise, and possibly disappointment. It is not the kind of decision one makes lightly and not one we were expecting to make after just a couple of years in Wantage. Our whole lives are bound up with the Church of England including most obviously our income and housing. But beyond that there are our family and friends in the Anglican church, our relationships here in the parish and my own sense of identity as a priest. Humanly speaking it would be much easier to stay here; we are settled in Wantage, our daughters are at school, I am enjoying being your Vicar and I feel a great sense of obligation to you.
Whilst it is not possible in this short statement to go into all of our reasons for making this decision, some of which are more personal, it would be fair to say that there have been a mixture of push and pull reasons. We believe the Lord is calling us into the unity and fullness of faith that he willed for his Church in communion with the successor of St Peter, the Pope. Flowing from this is a holding fast to the apostolic deposit of faith which we have come to accept as true. We remain immensely grateful to the Church of England which has nurtured and fed us over the years but it would be true to say that we have become increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of the church in matters liturgical, ecclesiological, sacramental and moral. Many of these issues have been revealed in new and worrying ways during the course of the pandemic.
In the final analysis I could not in conscience stand before you preaching and leading you in worship week by week and encouraging you to follow the Lord if I knew in my heart that I was not practicing what I preach. Where the Lord calls, even if that seems difficult or strange, that is where we must go.
What does this mean practically? I have agreed with the Bishop of Dorchester that today is the last time I will exercise public ministry although I will remain Vicar of Wantage until 10<sup>th</sup> August when my resignation takes effect. At that point the parish will enter a vacancy and will legally become the responsibility of the Churchwardens and Area Dean. The Bishop has kindly agreed that we may remain in the Vicarage for a couple of months whilst we find alternative housing.
If you have practical questions then the churchwardens will be happy to try and answer them. David and/or Jan are here this morning and would be happy to speak after the service. Alternatively, you may wish to contact them by phone or email once the news has sunk in. Please bear with them if they need to take a question away before responding. Fr Benji, as well as Fr Robin Lapwood and Fr Robert Teare, are very happy to have pastoral conversations with anyone who would find that helpful. A copy of this statement will be circulated via the parish email list later today.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fr Benji for his ministry, and kindness, during the last year and also thank the Churchwardens who have worked alongside me: Dick Peters, Bob Chaplow, Bill Jestico, Jan Ralston and David Richardson. I would also like to express my public thanks to the Bishop of Dorchester for his graciousness and generosity in his response to my decision.
I hope you won’t feel that the last two and a half years since I was appointed as your Vicar have been wasted, I have certainly considered it a privilege albeit challenging in the face of the COVID pandemic. I hope that much good work has been done but it is only right for someone else to take that forward into the future. For any hurt, pain and distress I cause you by making this decision I ask your forgiveness and I pray that the Lord will raise up the right person to lead you in the future.