Rev Helen’s last blog for FWC

As I write this, I am surrounded by boxes – a few packed, many still waiting to be filled – as my family and I prepare to move house to the Vicarage in Essington.
My last Sunday at Furzebank Worship Centre will be on 24th October and on Tuesday 9th November I will be licensed as Interim Minister of Essington and Featherstone & Shareshill – based at St. John’s Church in Essington and St. Mary and St. Luke’s in Shareshill. The role is initially for three years with the potential to be renewed for a further three years after that; and it has as it’s particular focus working with the congregations to develop their future mission, ministry and sustainability. It will be a challenge but I am looking forward to it!
However, I will also be very sad to leave Furzebank, the Short Heath Federation, and the wider Parish – including Holy Trinity. I have been Team Vicar here for five years. During that time I have enjoyed getting to know everyone and it has been a privilege to work with you all as we have sought to develop our Sunday Services; further our links with Rosedale Infants, Short Heath Juniors and Lane Head Nursery; expand our Messy Church into Rosedale Hall, set up a Bereavement Group and a monthly service at Winehala Court; and hold regular study groups and courses which have embraced a variety of subjects – ranging from Ignatian prayer to ‘Living in Love and Faith’. Alongside this outward looking work, I have also valued coming alongside many of you individually – offering pastoral support whenever I can; and, of course, over the past 18 months of so, much of this pastoral support has been in the area of serious illness and bereavement as people have lost so much throughout the Covid Pandemic. Last year, I personally conducted over 60 funerals…
Mention of the Pandemic leads me to acknowledge that much has changed for Furzebank and for Holy Trinity over the past year. The fact that we couldn’t meet for our services meant that we had to find news ways of worshipping on-line and of meeting for fellowship, as well as for church business meetings; and whilst this was embraced amazingly well by us all, and was, I think, often very creative; the length of time that we were away from the church buildings has meant that both congregations have struggled to re-gain their worshipping numbers on a Sunday now that we have returned; and the Parish, as a whole, has suffered huge financial losses. We are no means alone in this – many churches are struggling; and this has led to the Diocese engaging in a Shaping For Mission process for much of this year which is seeking to look at congregations and their future patterns of mission and ministry. The fact that my appointment to Essington, Featherstone and Shareshill is an interim appointment, is a reflection of this very process. All this means that for the immediate future, Furzebank and Holy Trinity will be without a vicar. Retired and local clergy will be coming to help take services; but much work during the vacancy will fall on the shoulders of the wardens and the church councils – so please think of them, keep praying for them and offer any help and support that you can.
As I have shared with some of you during my time here, one of my favourite passages from the Bible is from St. Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome – especially Chapter 8, verses 31-39. In this passage, Paul reassures his readers that God’s love is triumphant over all, that God’s love is eternal and that nothing can ever separate us from God and from God’s love. So, as I come to say goodbye, I am grateful for the friendships that have been made, for the work that we have all done together and for the privilege of serving in this place; and I am also conscious of the uncertainty that many are feeling in our church at this time. And as we look to the future and to whatever the next few weeks and months will bring, we commit ourselves in faith and in trust to God – knowing that God is there for us.
For, in the words of St. Paul:
“What then will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Amen to that!
Revd. Helen Duckett

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