Last Wednesday, at our monthly communal meal (Kedgeree incidentally, adapted slightly from this fine recipe and cooked for 18), we said our goodbyes to Tony and Zoe Cant.
Tony has been the vicar of St Luke’s since September 2007, and it was he who spotted the potential for us to engage somehow with the weekly Farmers’ Market that has become so crucial for us. He has been appointed as Chaplain to the Chelmsford site of Anglia Ruskin University, and starts this new phase of life and ministry in September.
Tony leaves us in reasonable shape. We are few in number, but have managed to grow in both quantity and (we believe) in quality over the past year in particular. We are clear about the shape and movement of the mission to which, and the people to whom, we feel particularly called. We value our place within the ongoing work of the wider parish, and in the fairly unique role we play on the High Street itself. It is also encouraging to know that our story is becoming known and respected within the ‘emerging church’ / ‘Fresh Expressions’ community.
So, while we’ll miss Tony and Zoe, and are very grateful for the time they spent with us, we will cope without them. Our church meets for worship and theological reflection mid week, and we are used to sharing responsibility for leading this, (we count a Reader, the Parish Evangelist, and a trainee Pioneer Minister in our midst – alongside others who are experienced in leadership roles); the weekly meetings in a local café pretty much run themselves; the work with younger and older people is coordinated by others than the clergy; and the Market Stall…?
For those unfamiliar with the work of the stall, it is pretty simple. We turn up and sell drinks and cakes. We offer hospitality to the other stall holders in the form of free drinks. We pray for those who request it. We help people in need where we can. We answer questions about issues of faith, spirituality and life in general. We know that we have dispelled misconceptions about the Christian faith, and have encouraged some to take significant steps closer to a relationship with God.
The stall at the Farmers’ Market is our principle ‘public face’ on Sundays, and it is also the area of our ministry most likely to be impacted by the Cant’s departure. Zoe has been one of the most regular volunteers on the stall, and I will take over the management of the Market as a whole from Tony – so in effect we’ll be down 2 people most weeks. We’ll need some more people to step up and help us out.
The fact that we are part of a wider parish will help us here. It is the usual practice for Anglican churches to help those experiencing an ‘interregnum’ (with no minister) as needed. Mostly, this will take the form of clergy visiting to administer Communion, and various individuals preaching, etc. as necessary. We will certainly benefit from clergy visits on Wednesdays, but we have also asked the other churches we work with to help us with the weekly stall, since it is so fundamental to what we do, and are known for.
There has been a call from God to Tony & Zoe to leave, and they have faithfully responded; but He also calls us to remain faithful to stay, and continue the work He has started in us here.
In due time, we expect a replacement for Tony to arrive. These things can take time, sometimes much of it. We are in an advantageous position in that we are probably as equally unattractive to the ‘wrong’ person as (hopefully) attractive to the ‘right’ one. As someone commented recently: “we have a nut, and we need a bolt – not a screw”.
Watch this space for further developments, and – as ever – feel free to contact me if you think you might be able to help us in Walthamstow (or even if you are wondering if you might be getting a nudge from God about our recent vacancy!)