Horsham‘s St Mary’s Church recently hosted a service to welcome a new minister – read on to find out more!
Freeman Brothers’ Community Co-Ordinator, Becky Hughes, and Manager, Abi Pattenden were delighted to be invited to attend the Institution and Induction of Revd Canon Lisa Barnett, new Team Rector of St Mary’s, Horsham, held in the church on Thursday, 6th February 2020. Freeman Brothers has been established in Horsham since 1855 and, as funeral directors with such a long experience of service in the Sussex area, we have a longstanding relationship with our local parish. We consider ourselves very fortunate that this relationship is so good – it’s mutually beneficial for that to be the case – it’s extremely important to our customers that we have a clear understanding of the church’s practices and procedures, to enable us to explain these accurately and manage expectations, and important to the church that we are able to capture all of the information they need to carry out their role successfully. We were therefore very much looking forward to welcoming Revd Lisa to her new Parish. Here, Abi explains a bit more about the ceremonies for welcoming Ministers to their new Parishes and Becky shares her thoughts on Thursday’s service.
Abi says, ‘The arrival of a new minister is always an exciting time for a Parish. While church attendances in the UK are generally falling, this is not the case everywhere, and many communities still have their Parish church at their centre. This makes the Minister a very important person to that people, and the Institution and Induction is the congregation’s chance to officially welcome him or her to their community.
‘Ministers leave Parishes for many reasons. The Church has a hierarchy and there are opportunities for promotion and roles which do not involve ministering to a Parish. They may need – or be asked – to relocate to a new area, and so join a different Parish. There may be reorganisations among Diocesan areas which mean they stay working locally but the responsibilities for a particular Parish alter. They may retire or choose to leave the church for other reasons. In any case, when a minister leaves there is usually a period called ‘interregnum’ while a replacement is found. This can be a long period, during which time cover will be provided by lay readers or other local clergy and decisions will be made by Churchwardens, so the ceremonies to welcome a new Minister are the formal marking of the end of this period and their acknowledgment that they have begun their responsibilities to the Parish.
‘A Minister has many responsibilities to their Parish, although the extent of these can vary dependent on the circumstances. These extend to more than might be expected in pastoral care. For example, the ‘Incumbent’ (as the Minister in charge is called) has control over the Churchyard, and so has to give permission for people to be buried there and approve the design of memorials to be placed there (in line with the regulations issued by their Diocese). Of course, not all Churches have a Churchyard, and many old churches have no burial space, so not all Parishes come with such responsibilities.
‘I have been lucky enough to attend several of these types of ceremonies in my time as Manager of Freeman Brothers, and have joined local communities in welcoming new ministers to many of the surrounding villages. What always strikes me about these occasions is the warmth and optimism which accompanies them. Parishioners are always so keen to ensure their new minister is given a warm welcome. The Church is always full and the mood always celebratory. Many local clergy also join the local community in welcoming their new colleague, and so these occasions always represent a nice opportunity to reconnect with contacts who we speak to very often but may see less frequently.
‘Like many traditional ceremonies in long-established institutions, this is one which has its quirks. One of my favourites is that the Minister is given responsibility for the Parish and the Church, as represented by the building. This takes the form of the Minister placing a hand on the entrance door or its key and can often be a humorous moment, as there is often a mock ‘battle’ to actually reach the door through a crowd of people, or a fake show of reluctance from the Minister who is then jokily dragged towards the position. In larger Churches, such as St Mary’s, the time which this process takes is also amusing and there is often a ‘wiping of the brow’ when everyone concerned returns to their places after the walk back and forwards. This moment of levity is rare but welcome in what can often – rightly – be a serious service: the new Minister often seems to feel both daunted and proud during the ceremony as they formally undertake their responsibilities to this new group of people.’
Becky says, ‘I feel that Thursday’s ceremony was very serious, as the service warranted, but it was good to have some light-hearted moments included to go with the celebratory tone this kind of occasion. Revd Lisa’s oaths to both the Queen (the Oath of Allegiance) and the Bishop of Chichester (the Oath of Canonical Obedience) and the induction of her as possessing the Vicarage and Parish Church were the culmination of what was clearly a well-planned service. The applause which greeted her formally being made the new Incumbent was loud and long lasting, a real tribute to the enthusiasm with which hew new parishioners felt about greeting her. It seems it’s also traditional for the Bishop’s speech to include a few gentle jokes about the Parish or town where the new minister is making his or her home and it was no different on Thursday. The Right Reverend Dr Warner, Bishop of Chichester, clearly took great pleasure in welcoming Revd Lisa to her new post and the light teasing was clearly taken very much in the spirit it was meant. The enthusiasm for her new role was evident to see throughout the service and she is clearly very pleased to be joining such a vibrant Parish.’
After the ceremony, Becky and Abi reflected how nice it was that the church has these ceremonies to structure the arrival of a new minister, and to formally introduce them to their new ‘flock’. Of course, being a minister is a job like any other and so Revd Lisa will have new colleagues to get to know and new procedures she has to learn, but on top of that she also has the care of a significant group of people – many of whom will be new to her too – to manage. While the ceremony is formal, it gives structure to the initial introduction. This, and the informal get together for refreshments afterwards, gave her an opportunity for her to give a sense of herself to the largest possible group at once. There will be plenty of time for her to set her stall out to all her key stakeholders and explain her ambitions for her time at St Mary’s – Thursday was not a place for all the plans she will no doubt already be developing.
Abi concludes by reflecting: ‘Someone once told me that the installation of a Minister used to be far less of a public affair. It was a ceremony for the minister and for the church hierarchy, and perhaps a few interested parties such as the churchwardens and perhaps local landowners. The Church of England often faces criticism for its traditional ways and lack of adaptation to modern times, but I can say that this is one area where I feel they have shown a willingness to evolve, and for the better. This ceremony, and others like it, is not only a chance for parishioners to hear the commitment that their new minister makes; it is also a chance for that minister to know that their commitment is heard. ‘
All at Freeman Brothers join the local community in welcoming Revd Lisa Barnett to St Mary’s, and we very much look forward to working with her in her new role.
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