We welcomed John Russell our new parish assistant last weekend. John offers here some First Impressions:
I’m just finishing my first week in Manchester after moving up from South London last Wednesday to become one of the two new parish assistants at St. C’s. It’s a fairly big life-change for me. I’ve only regularly been attending Sunday church services since Advent, having been a Quaker for 10 years. A year ago I started to pray more often, felt called to join the Church, and then to explore ordination – all in a slightly bewildering rush because I knew very little about what being a priest involved. In July this year I found out about the vacancy at St. C’s, and then came to visit the parish last month. When Father Ian offered me the place, I resigned my job as a Senior Lecturer in Law and moved up north.
Given what a big change it’s been, I’m amazed how quickly I’ve started to settle in. When I was told there was a “parish lunch” on Saturday, I thought that might be half a dozen people with a pot of tea and some sandwiches. I didn’t at all expect Desmond and Michael’s lavish spread and a garden full of people to meet! Already knowing some friendly faces made my first Sunday Mass less intimidating. I’d been told by a few people that St. C’s was “very High” and I thought I might find this a bit disorientating – but it just felt very comfortable straightaway. The only alarming thing was being put straight with the singers to sing the bass part. I onlystarted to sing a year ago, did a couple of beginner singing courses, started to sing in a community choir, and had a few individual lessons. I sang the bass part in the spirituals in Tippet’s Choir of Our Time at the Royal Festival Hall in June, though there were 200 other amateur singers to hide behind. I’ll be scheduling in some weekly hymn practice.
Today I met teachers and pupils at St. John’s School, where I’ll be assisting. Headteacher Isobel had some great ideas for how I might make use of my university experience where I’ve coached undergraduate students for the National Criminal Advocacy competition. Isabel thought we might try a scaled-down age-appropriate version of a mock criminal trial with the older pupils learning about how legal decisions are made and how to present a persuasive argument, and the chance to cross-examine their classmates which I’m sure they will enjoy.
Lastly, I’m starting to practice ringing the Angelus, which may take me some time to master – for the time being, you’ll know when it’s me hanging on the bell-rope because of all the extra rings!