I was asked recently to come and lead a class at our local primary school. I had to try to explain to a group of eight-year-olds what the role of being a vicar involved.
In order to do this, I took my robe case which not only contained my robes but also an assortment of artefacts that I use in the course of my duties. Of particular significance were my beaten-up old copy of the Bible and my miniature home communion set.
Children’s questions about God are often more daring and profound than the ones we ask as adults. The leading question was who made God? My answer was that he is uncreated, has always existed, and always will exist. Many of the other questions showed that the children had given considerable thought to the bigger questions of life as well as the involvement of God in this world and their lives. Children have a knack for putting you on the spot and a couple of the children asked me if I enjoyed my job? I replied ‘most of it!’
The whole exercise did make me reflect quite deeply on the role of a Church of England Priest in 21st Century Britain. The job is basically the same as it’s always been which is to help people to find God for themselves. It’s a sort of divine introduction agency for anyone seeking to raise their sights above and beyond this life.
The pastoral task is centred on helping people in making their connection with God in whatever circumstances they find themselves and of course, this involves teaching and helping people to pray in a way that is real and meaningful. Thus it was and will always be.
My time at the school finished with a short time of prayer which was surprisingly meaningful and remarkably silent!
Rev. Dr Christopher Noble
Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo & Area Dean of Shoreham