Thursday, 13 January 2011

Around the Glassy Sea; History Made in Aldbrough, Forcett and Melsonby

Have you ever wondered exactly what a 'glassy sea' looks like as you've sung the hymn, 'Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.'? Well, I discovered on Sunday evening as I stood outside the the parish church in Aldbrough St John, surveying the cross roads. In every direction, I could see nothing but sheets of rippling ice. The prelude to this was having to abandon my car in the hedge on Doctor's Lane after it skidded badly on a hill. I've never before experienced losing control of a stationary car with handbrake on, but there I was, slowly slithering towards a wall and a hollow at the bottom of the hill - a very unnerving sensation. I decided that the least worst option was to steer the car into the bank. As I was sitting dejectedly at the wheel, discovering that there was no mobile signal and thinking 'Help, I'm going to be awfully late for the induction service at Forcett,' and, 'Can I manage to walk on the ice to the village?' a car appeared from the opposite direction. The driver got out, surveyed the hill and took the wise decision not to attempt it. She offered me a lift back into the village. I have never been so grateful to accept a lift and would like to thank her for her wonderfully opportune appearance and her kindness if she ever gets to read this.

So angels do exist! The scripture passage for evensong on Sunday was Hebrews 1.1-12 and in it, of course, the writer contrasts Jesus with the angels. Well now I have a concrete picture of an angel - someone who arrives unbidden to protect and deliver! The hospitality of the countryside which helps the stranger and looks out for those who need help in appalling weather conditions was marvellous to experience. No sooner had the lady dropped me off than a church member appeared, walking across the treacherous ice to ask if I was alright.  A few minutes later Stan (the Vicar whose Induction it was) appeared to give me a lift to the right church, St Cuthbert's in Forcett. Here the choir was ably keeping spirits up by singing carols. This was a rural benefice that could muster a choir that was capable of singing unaccompanied Gibbons service settings!  Not to mention a congregation who had turned out on an icy night with patience and good humour!

The Revd Stan Haworth is one of our Area Deans and has been priest in charge of the benefice of Aldbrough, Forcett and Melsonby for nearly ten years. He clearly has a talent for attracting memorable circumstances. His licensing as priest-in-charge was during the foot and mouth crisis when travel was limited and it was also snowing then. At the second attempt, so to speak, his induction as Rector on Sunday, the snow almost prevented the service again. But Richmond Deanery is made of sterner stuff and, despite everything, Stan was duly inducted and prayed for. There was a tangible sense of thankfulness and warmth in the worship and we wish him and all the people of the benefice well for the coming years of ministry. This was the last induction of a priest to the freehold in the archdeaconry and, I think, the diocese as, from January 31st, all new appointments to office will be by Common Tenure....but that's another story. 

(View the sermon preached at the induction on the Sermons page.)  

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