Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Firstly, thank you all for your welcome! Wednesday evening was a lovely occasion and I feel very humbled by your care and hospitality. There are so many people to thank, and I am so grateful for all their hard work. I am very excited for this next chapter in the life of St Mildred’s as we all work collaboratively to worship God and to bring his Kingdom ever closer.

As this new chapter begins, I would like to make you aware that my preference is to be styled and known as “Fr Neil”. I know this is a different style to the last few incumbents of St Mildred’s, and so I write to ask that you respect this decision.

Please note that I have taken a great deal of time to think and reflect on this; and after reflecting it was Jane Ward’s article in the Parish Post which helped me make my conclusion. She wrote “calling somebody by their preferred name is a sign of respect; it shows you are interested in them and want to connect with them”. What Jane wrote reminded me that treating each other with love and respect (a basic Christian calling) begins with how we greet one another. It is my preference to be “Fr Neil” and Jane helped me realise why this was important.

You may wonder why I have a preference to be styled as ‘Fr’. There are many reasons – but fundamentally one reason which has led me to this decision; and that is that I cannot quite convey to you how humbling the title is. Being called ‘Fr’ is a constant reminder of what God has called me to and the weight of that charge. In the ordination service, the Ordinal states: “Remember always with thanksgiving that the treasure now to be entrusted to you is Christ’s own flock, bought by the shedding of his blood on the cross. It is to him that you will render account for the stewardship of his people.” It is my role to love you, teach you, care for you, admonish you, to grow your faith etc. and in doing all of this, I am ultimately accountable to Christ. Being ‘Fr’ is a constant reminder of this calling, it truly is humbling and a reminder of the grave responsibility that has been entrusted to me by God himself.

I want to make it clear that this is not about changing the identity of St Mildred’s. There will, no doubt, be changes as we grow and look forward to the future together; but for now, I simply wish to get to know you better, and experience the incredible things you are already doing. This instead is about my own identity, and I hope and pray that you can respect this decision.

Again, thank you for your welcome and for your support.

With my love and prayers, Fr Neil.

 

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