Well, the beginning of 2017 has been a busy time for me, not just a new start in a new house but a new start in a new ministry too! New beginnings are fine; personally I find them very exciting, but of course where there are new beginnings there are inevitably endings as well. As my ministry in Kirkby drew to its natural end I became very aware of how very fond I had become of the town and more specifically its people; my farewell service was a very emotional one for everyone, me included; it is virtually unprecedented seeing me shed a tear in public; I am not ashamed to say I did on that occasion.
However, the following week saw great joy as my long awaited, and much anticipated installation & induction service took place, and my what a grand affair it was too! We had a Bishop, an Archdeacon and our Area Dean, joined by people from Kirkby, Clergy friends & colleagues, my family & friends and of course the lovely welcoming people of St David’s and other neighbouring parishes. As the good folk of Kirkby were leaving the comments were all highly favourable; “you’ve landed on your feet here vicar” said one whilst another; “this lot seem ok don’t they” praise indeed I can assure you! Over a glass of wine (or two) afterwards at the vicarage my friends and family unanimously agreed on how welcoming & friendly the people of St David’s are and that they could see what a perfect fit it was between you and your new vicar. For me this new beginning feels the most natural thing in the world; I chose a passage from the gospel according to Matthew (7: 7-11) which Bishop Richard preached on. As is always the case with our current Bishop of Warrington his sermon was something of a masterpiece; he was witty, warm, encouraging and above all theological in his unique way which allows the listener a deeper understanding of the scriptures without being too ‘brainy’ about it. +Richard picked up on the prayer element of this passage and indeed it is essentially about prayer; “how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” asks Jesus.
But as much as Bishop Richard spoke about me as a man of prayer who’s greatest desire is to encourage others in their prayer life, and he is absolutely correct in this; I chose this reading really as an image of my own vocational journey; Jesus tells us; “Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you” Vocation can be a very powerful thing, also very personal; In my personal journey with God I find that when He makes a call on my life He does so in a way that is quite unmistakable; my calling to ordained ministry for example was one that arrived fairly quickly, very powerfully, and in a way that could not be ignored. Similarly my calling to serve as Assistant Curate of Prescot, and then later to St Andrew’s as Team Vicar followed in a similar vein. I then found, one day last summer, that I was presented with a God-given opportunity which was just too good to ignore and whilst praying on it I found a very deep sense of God nudging me to ‘knock, and maybe; just maybe that door will indeed be opened for you’ the opportunity I speak of was of course the vacancy for vicar of St David’s Childwall!
I did respond and I sent my application in accordingly; the rest is history. I found the whole process incredibly affirming and truly sensed God’s hand in the proceedings.
And so, here we have it; a new ministry for your vicar and a new chapter in the life of Childwall St David; I am rather hoping that you find me as your vicar approachable, prayerful and above all here to serve God as a Christian among Christians, and none Christians too for that matter! I am looking forward to getting to know you and the community in which we live and serve our God and I truly sense that I am in this for the long haul. I am always open to new ideas and am excited to hear what you may have to say about our role as the Body of Christ in our community; I am also looking forward to being alongside you as you discover or continue to explore your own God-given vocation: be assured we all have one and as I think I have proved it tends not to remain static or dormant, nor is everyone’s the same, far from it.
Speak to me if you see me out and about with my dog, introduce yourself if you see me walking to the shops or to visit a school or parishioner, I tend to walk about the parish quite a lot! And of course catch me in church, I am usually never too busy for a chat but if I am for any reason at that particular point I will explain why!
Here’s to the coming years friends, let’s journey together into God’s future with joy & fellowship in our hearts.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Peter Smyth
(This article by Peter was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in February 2017)