SHOPPERS, walkers and coffee drinkers in Waterlooville were amazed last Sunday as the 150-strong congregation of St George’s parish church processed through the shopping precinct.
Hymns were sung and a reading from St Matthew’s Gospel was proclaimed from the bandstand to the people of the town.
For those unable to join in, the event was beamed on to a screen in the church building.
The procession was part of a special service marking the end of my time as parish priest at St George’s.
It’s been a very busy and rewarding ministry at St George’s Church, especially because I’ve been so keen to put St George’s at the heart of the local community.
On lots of occasions in the past 13 years, the congregation has taken to the streets of Waterlooville to tell the story of Jesus.
On Palm Sunday we’ve followed a donkey; on Good Friday we’ve been led by a cross through Waterlooville’s market; and on Easter Day, the most important day in the Christian year, we’ve processed around the town marking the resurrection of Jesus.
These occasions are for everyone in the community and, despite an element of surprise, the processions always seem to be welcomed by those watching.
It’s really important that the church isn’t seen as just a few people doing something in private inside a closed building, but instead is open and may be challenging to people in the town.
Everyone is invited to worship God and being seen in the town centre is one way to make this invitation real.
As well as St George’s Church in Waterlooville, I’ve also ministered in Locks Heath, Ryde and West Leigh since I was originally ordained in 1979.
It has been a real privilege to work and worship alongside so many willing and hard-working people in the church and in the local community.
Now that I’m retiring, I’m planning a complete break for a few months.
But I will still be a priest and will no doubt get involved helping to lead services in local churches as a retired priest before too long.
n ST GEORGE’S CHURCH is in St George’s Walk, Waterlooville. Sunday services are 8am and 10am.