Written by Reverend Dr Sarah Forrest:
I am the Reverend Dr Sarah Forrest the new priest in charge of Great Amwell with St Margaret’s and Stanstead Abbotts…” I’ve been saying that for a whole year, but what a weird year it’s been!
I’ve met a lot of folk in the villages, but I’m so aware of the folk I haven’t met yet. I arrived with my family at the Vicarage in August 2020 and started working in September last year. We opened the churches for the first time since lockdown, and very carefully with socially distancing tried to restore that pattern of prayer and worship in the buildings which everyone had been missing so much.
November saw us in lockdown again, we reopened in December, and we were closed again for Christmas. The churches only reopened in the end of May so it hasn’t exactly been a normal start to being a priest in the Three Villages.
But although the church buildings have been quiet, the church hasn’t. We know that the church is really the people, the family of God, rather than just the building, and we’ve been meeting online, outside, and in church whenever we can.
You may have seen me walking to school in the morning with my youngest, and it’s been a great thing to be able to join the community as a mum as well as a priest.
The churches have continued to work in and with the schools, doing online collective worship, getting creative by using the school grounds and the churchyard as places to explore Christianity and to spend time seeking God in learning and worship.
You may have taken a stroll through St John the Baptist churchyard and found our Experience Easter Trail, and been able to explore the Easter story. We’ve had to be creative about how we do things!
We’ve also got practical, and we opened the 3 Churches Foodbank Hub, delivering food to those in need in the Villages from the Hertford & Ware Foodbank.
We have been working to welcome people coming into our villages to live in East Herts Housing’s interim accommodation at the Rectory, by supplying ‘Welcome Packs’ and general household items to people who have either been at risk of eviction or made homeless.
As Christians we believe that God walks with us in the good times and the bad, that he cares about everything that happens to us, because he made us and he loves us.
We are starting to do those things that really fill us with hope, like baptisms, weddings and celebrations, but not everybody is ready to celebrate yet. In the last 12 months I have conducted a lot of funerals, met with a lot of grieving families, and walked with people in the valley of the shadow of death. Church can be that important safe space to talk about our grief and to find God’s comfort.
It’s such a time of waiting at the moment, but waiting doesn’t mean we don’t have hope. We still haven’t quite got everything back to normal, and I guess we all realise that normal will have to be a ‘new normal’. I
t’s been a time of change for everyone, and as we wait and watch, we pray. We pray for our community, our schools, our neighbours and everyone, especially those who are sad, lonely, struggling, sick or in pain. We pray for God’s peace and healing, and then we go out and see what we can do to help!