AT a special service back in May, I was licensed by the Bishop of Portsmouth to be the vicar of Wickham and Shedfield.
It was full with churchgoers from St Nicholas, Wickham, and St John the Baptist, Shedfield, plus representatives from church, faith and community groups from this area.
Bishop Christopher gave me the responsibility of sharing with him the care of those who live in the parishes of Wickham and Shedfield (which includes Shirrell Heath and Waltham Chase), using an old-fashioned phrase – the ‘cure of souls’.
That doesn’t mean I’m only interested in people’s souls.
The phrase comes from a Latin word ‘cura’, which means ‘care’.
It means that parish priests and bishops share in the job of caring for everyone who lives in their parish, whether they come to church or not.
So your parish priest is there for everyone – offering pastoral care in the highs and lows of life, and sharing in the joys and sorrow of christenings, weddings and funerals.
Since May I’ve been able to meet people at village events.
It’s been great to enjoy fetes, duck races, and cream teas.
But our memories of summer 2017 will inevitably be coloured by the Manchester and London terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.
From my visits around the parishes, I know that many people live every day with illness, bereavement and worries about the future.
It’s especially hard in the summer sunshine to understand why bad things happen that shouldn’t, and why good things don’t happen when they should.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I love the story about a man – we’ll call him Tom – who was having a tough time.
He had lost his business, his wife and his children and was at an all-time low.
He decided to visit a wise old priest.
Tom offloaded the whole sorry tale, but instead of talking, the man asked him to boil three pans of water.
He said: ‘Put a potato in one pan, an egg in another and some coffee beans in the third.’
For half an hour or so they sat in silence watching the pans boiling away.
By then, the potato had turned soft and mushy and the egg was as hard as rock.
But the smell from the coffee beans and water was irresistible, and Tom was soon enjoying the best coffee he’d had for ages.
‘Life’, said the priest, ‘is like a pan of boiling water full of challenges.
‘Some people get so broken they turn mushy and others get so bitter that they completely harden up.
‘But the coffee beans don’t let the heat ruin them – they change the boiling water into something marvellous.’
It’s not what happens to us that defines us, but how we react to it.
Let’s make sure we don’t wait until next summer to take time to rest, take stock and enjoy the coffee.