For those who follow me on social media, you might have seen that I have been appointed as Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, West Derby, Liverpool! This means that I will no longer be a trainee vicar as I am now – they are taking the stabilisers off!
A little while ago, when I posted about Nathan’s new job , I said that occasionally, due to the nature of the way things work in the church, I would need to blog retrospectively. This is because sometimes things need to be kept under wraps for a while until they become official.
So this is a story about hearing a call to a new church and being appointed as vicar.
23rd January 2020
Love at first… reading of the profile. This is crazy. I love them already. ‘You have probably seen this before, and you might not like the profile’ the message said ‘but it could be worth a look’.
While Nathan was in his opticians appointment, I, sporting a new pair of glasses, clicked to open the document. ‘Are we reading the same profile?!’ I thought. ‘This is wonderful!’
On a well timed journey to do wedding prep in my home town of Retford, we took a slight detour and pulled up outside the church. It seems nice enough. That profile, though. I can’t stop thinking about it.
On the way back to Formby, the satnav takes us off the motorway (for the first time in 18 months of regularly driving that route) and it takes us past the church. We stop outside again. We listen to ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ and The Summons and I cry. It reminds me of my call to the ministry and to Nathan.
I set up for the service at St Michael’s and notice that somebody has already put bookmarks in my hymn book. Today, we are singing ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ and The Summons. I note the change in my heartbeat and the sting in my eye. The retired minister, who knows exactly what is going on, looks at me knowingly and says ‘I hope you’ve got tissues…’
Protocol dictates that I have a word with the powers that be about this nudging sensation that simply WON’T GO AWAY. A phone call is arranged. They know I am interested. After the phone call, I feel encouraged and challenged in equal measure. I’m going to apply for the job.
Darn it! The interviews are when I’m away on mission with the Bishop in York. I feel panic and uncertainty again. What’s going to happen now? I decide that whether I can attend the interview or not, I will crack on with the application because I want the reps to know that someone thought of them and suspected that they could love them.
Helpfully, the Bishop is at Holy Trinity this morning. Exactly 2 minutes before the service is due to begin, my vicar boss says ‘Bishop, please don’t go before talking to Poppy today. She has something to say to you’. Blimey. There’s no escaping that one.
After the service, we have a chat about the interview-mission clash. He agrees that it wouldn’t be ideal to try and do both in one weekend. Phew.
Later, 16th February.
Mum, Isabelle, Nathan, Dad, Mark and Sam have all read over the application. With a glass of prosecco in hand, I hit send. My smartwatch buzzes with an email. I have officially applied to be a vicar.
I have been invited to attend an interview! Hooray! It will now happen the week after the original interview date. I have also arranged a tour of the parish, my presentation is written and my visual aids have been delivered. Now all I need to do is wait and pray!
All things coronavirus are now kicking off. The mission was great, although numbers were lower than was originally hoped because of the fear around the virus spread. I really would love this interview to still happen, somehow!
The interview is going ahead, although we will be sitting spread out, observing the new social distancing guidelines.
21st March, 12pm
As Nathan and I drive down the road towards the church, I see the doors open and my heart bursts with joy, excitement and adrenaline. I have sat outside this church several times and longed to get in. We park up and I skip (in my heels!) excitedly towards the doors.
Later Saturday, collapsed on the sofa, eating a MacDonalds and doing a jigsaw
‘They want me, they don’t want me. I want them, I don’t know. I feel very exposed, I don’t think I gave enough of myself’. All these thoughts swirl around my head as the afternoon goes on and I consider how the interview went. I don’t think it was bad, exactly, but I don’t know if I was at my best. I am still tired from the mission and there is so much going on in my head with all this Covid stuff.
At the end of the interview, I asked the panel what their dream for the Good Shepherd is. One parish rep said ‘to see it full’ and the other said ‘growth. I want the people outside to know what a relationship with God is like and how much he loves them’. I can certainly get on board with that!
A few hours later
The archdeacon calls and asks me how I think it went. ‘I can’t call it’ I say. He says that they loved meeting me and want to recommend me to the Bishop! As soon as I know they liked me back, I am overjoyed! I am being recommended to the Bishop and will have an interview with her at some point soon. That evening, I roly-poly across the bedroom!
An email has arrived, my next interview is tomorrow! It will be via Skype.
Before the second interview, Nathan makes me a cuppa in my mug which says ‘fantastic, philanthropic, free thinking and photogenic’. It certainly gives me confidence!
I have formally been offered the job, and it looks like we will be announcing on Sunday. I am over the moon about the post, although really sad that I can’t share the news with the congregations face to face.
The word is out and people seem really pleased for me! We have no idea when I will be licenced, given the current climate. It’s not like we can move soon, but I definitely feel a mental shift as I begin to hold The Church of the Good Shepherd in my daily prayers and look towards the future.
This morning on Zoom I said prayers with a group of people from the local churches in Croxteth, Norris Green and West Derby. I have found out that many people are really pleased that after three rounds of advertising, somebody is coming to be the vicar of the Good Shepherd. I also spoke to a man who has been praying for a new vicar every day – how amazing is that?! I have had a chat with one of the local clergy and I have been added to a local churches Facebook group. I just know that in all this, I was right to trust my instincts, follow my heart and listen to God’s call.
‘Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?‘ – The Summons