As an ordinand in training at Cuddesdon (photo left), I had a conversation a few months ago with the tutor responsible for placements about where to spend 4 weeks in the summer. Having spent 9 years as a Church Army Officer, I have a fair amount of experience in the Church of England, but always in places with one church, one vicar. I asked, therefore, to have a different experience: to go to a church that was part of a bigger team.
I can’t imagine anywhere that would have given me the breadth of experience in such a short space of time as I have found at Dorchester Abbey. Granted, it has been a particularly busy month (meeting Bishop Colin 6 times in a little over 2 weeks is indicative of the number of special events that have happened), but I have learnt much from the day-to-day life of the Abbey and Dorchester Team as well.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Team is blessed with an array of highly capable leaders – both lay and ordained – and it has been a privilege to meet and chat with many of them. The breadth of gifting obviously extends into parish life with so many people serving their parish church in numerous different ways. I was especially impressed with the way that many people from across the Team came together to provide hospitality so effectively for the Ordination Service a couple of weeks ago.
There are lots of things I could talk about regarding this time on placement, but I will limit myself to two more things which I will take from my experience in Dorchester. The first is the team of Churchwardens and Assistant Churchwardens, with particular people having particular responsibilities within the Abbey – it is something which I have not experienced before, yet makes perfect sense, and seems to be working well – an idea which I may well pinch for the future! I am not surprised that a parish which is part of a wider team should have effective teams within itself as well (and there are many more teams besides the churchwardens).
Finally, it has been a real privilege spending these few short weeks witnessing the way that Sue works, as Team Rector. It is a hugely demanding task, being both named incumbent for this particular cluster, and also leading the whole team (and that is without taking into account the additional responsibilities that come with being Area Dean). I have been impressed with the way she models leadership, and have appreciated her insights about taking time off. We had a very interesting discussion about Sabbath the other week, which has given me much food for thought for the future.
May I end by saying thank you to all those I have met in this short time in the Dorchester Team, especially those who have very kindly given up time to talk about life in the Abbey and/or team. It is hard to believe that this Sunday is the end of the placement, but I intend to go out with a bang (perhaps literally – I will be speaking at the Family Service, and balloons will be involved!!) I hope to see many of you there, but whether you can make it or not, I wish Dorchester and the Team every blessing for the future.
(Blogged by Chris Routledge, Cuddesdon Ordinand on a 4 week placement at Dorchester Abbey)