ONE of the things I really enjoy is meeting people and listening to what they want to say.
My role as a clergyman means I often have the enormous privilege of listening to very personal things from those both inside and outside the church.
Those in the three congregations I’m part of trust me to support them and pray for difficult issues they are facing with their families, at work, with illness or with bereavement.
Praying for them and supporting them through tricky times is part of what this job is all about.
So often God answers their prayers in wonderful ways.
But those who don’t and perhaps would never come to church sometimes want to talk too.
They see the dog collar, understand that I’m likely to be sympathetic, and might tell me things they wouldn’t tell their family or friends.
A quick prayer next to them in a hospital bed, or on their doorstep, or in the street can mean the world to people, regardless of whether they go to church or even have faith.
At that moment they just need to know that someone cares.
I recently visited three people in hospital and was able to pray with one lady just before her operation.
It’s at times like that I remind myself that that’s what I’m here for.
In a way, going outside the church congregation and offering yourself to those in the wider community somehow feels more important.
In church, there are often lots of people helping and supporting each other.
Outside, there are many who are lonely, anxious or isolated and who need to experience something of God’s love.
Don’t believe people when they say the Church is on the decline.
As it happens, the number of people coming to our church services is going up, but I don’t think that’s the right way to measure what the Church does.
So many Christians – not just those who happen to be clergy – are revitalised at church so they can go out in the wider world and help others.
The real test of how effective our churches are is not how many happen to attend services, but how many worshippers are then inspired to serve their local community.
n ST MARY’S CHURCH is in Green Road, Alverstoke.
For more information go to stmarysalverstoke.org.uk.