by Martin Wilkes (and of course Linda)
Linda and I have worshipped in the Parish of High Ongar since the summer of 2006. We had previously worshipped at Ashurst Drive Baptist Church for many, many years so it was quite a change, and indeed a challenge, moving into an Anglican community! But the fundamental truths of the gospel were the same so we got used to doing things in a different way relatively quickly. But now, after 13 years here, we are moving on to somewhere new – what will it be like?
The first thing to say is that we are not moving because of any dissatisfaction with St Marys. That could not be further from the truth! We believe, that under our interim minister, Stewart, the fellowship has been revitalised by God and we are truly very sad to be leaving at this time. No, we are moving because we feel led by God to move; that the time is right to leave not only the fellowship at St Mary’s, but also Essex, where we have lived virtually all our lives. We have prayed a great deal over the move, and received numerous confirmations of it. Even so, we are still very nervous about it and hope we are not making a mistake… (we don’t think we are – but even if we are we know that all things work together for good, for those that love God). We are moving to a coastal town, Gorleston, just above the Norfolk/Suffolk border, where we will remain, God willing, to enjoy our retirement with daily walks by the sea.
Leaving the parish will not be easy. This parish is more than three church buildings. If they all ceased to exist, the church – which is the people – would remain. We have made many good friends here, and although we won’t name any specific people (for fear of inadvertently upsetting anyone we didn’t name), folk within the parish will know those we have formed a particularly strong bond with, and our hope and prayer is that those bonds will remain even after we move.
We have seen many changes in the parish over the years. We have known a number of different rectors or priests in charge, curates, youth workers (official and unofficial), service leaders and preachers… all of whom have served God to the best of their God given abilities.
We have seen practical changes – such as the introduction of round tables for a café style first Sunday of the month service, and the introduction of gluten free wafers and non-alcoholic wine at communion. These seem simple enough in themselves but have inexplicably added to the feeling of “being family” at church services.
And this, for us, is what the church is all about. Far greater than all the people, building and practical changes is the feeling of real family we have experienced, especially at St Mary’s.
So what will we miss? There are too many things to name here, but of special note we’ll miss the church family; Stewart; the Homegroup we attend; the use of member gifts in the services and in the service of God in evangelistic events – how can we forget SINGALONGA Joseph, and this year, Jonah? Also the bacon butties at prayer breakfasts; the Shrove Tuesday pancake party; and of course the children who go to Harmony (the children’s bible club run by the church in High Ongar Primary School every Tuesday lunchtime). And for myself, I will miss the camaraderie and fellowship of the PCC, and Interim Ministry team.
What are we looking forward to as we move? Building new relationships in our new church. At the moment we feel led to attend Cliff Park Community Church – a church planted by the local Anglican and Baptist Churches, (interesting considering our backgrounds), which meets in the local school – again something we will need to get used to; getting to know our new neighbours; spending time in our new community witnessing and evangelising to them; and being close to the sea, with all the benefits that will have. But most of all, and I don’t mean to sound pious as I say this, we are looking forward to continuing our walk with God as we move into our more twilight years. We do not know what the future holds, but are positive that whatever it is we will not walk the path alone, but that our Lord and Saviour will walk the same path with us.