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Service of Welcome & Licensing

posted 4 Oct 2009, 01:46 by Richard Jones   [ updated 31 Mar 2010, 07:05 ]

Two years and two months since Rev'd Peter Hudson's retirement, our prayers were finally answered when Bishop John and Archdeacon John led our service of welcome and licensing of Rev'd Paul Rolfe as our new Priest-in-Charge. Paul's wife Judith, their family and friends, representatives of the Parish Council, Mellor's other churches and St Leonard's Balderstone, joined with many of our own parishioners to make up the large, vocal and welcoming congregation.

Few had clear memories of the previous licensing service, twenty five years having past since the last one in Mellor, but thumbing through the order of service, it became clear we were promised a new experience. Bishop John boomed out his welcome to the congregation and to Paul in particular. Readings by the young Emma Dewhurst (very well done!), yours truly and Canon John Hartley followed; before Bishop John delivered a stirring sermon on the theme of Saint Francis. Our Patron, Dean Christopher, presented Paul to the Bishop to be licensed; accompanied by Churchwardens, Hilda and Graham. Following the formal declaration and oaths, Paul and the rest of us made our promises to God between the verses of the hymn "Fill thou my life, O Lord my God". Canon John led a procession from the altar, to the lectern, to the font and finally to the church door; each stop being symbolic of roles and commitment. Frank Ashton, Sheila Brindle and John Gorman ably represented the parishioners at Altar, Lectern and Font, by asking Paul to be among us and help us in our worship and faithfulness.

Paul's installation ended when Archdeacon John led Paul to his seat as parish priest, at which, point Paul formally took up his role and was greeted by enthusiastic applause reflecting our joy, relief and warm welcome. Judging by Paul's opening remarks as our parish priest, at least two things were clear. Despite his three way split of time, his roles as Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's and St Leonard's would be his priorities. Secondly, there would be no need for him to ask "Can you hear me at the back?" as his powerful baritone voice rang out around the church! Having led us in prayer for the first time, Paul concluded the service by announcing his favourite hymn "Thine be the glory" during which his enthusiastic singing threatened to drown out the choir!

The service over, many of us crossed to the school for a sumptuous supper, laid on by the Mothers' Union, and the opportunity to chat with Paul and Judith. Sandwiches were snaffled, puddings were pounced on, "Pavs were ..lova'd", cakes were consumed - while wine warmed our hearts and friendly fellowship followed. Canon John offered well deserved thanks to "the ladies" for the spread, to the many members of the clergy who had conducted our services during the interregnum and to our PCC members. He rightly reserved special thanks for the work of Churchwardens Tommie, Graham and, in particular, Hilda. In thanking her for all her sterling efforts on behalf of St Mary's, he was reminded of the many 'phone calls from her making sure we would have priests nominated to officiate at least two months in advance of our services! Many of us could imagine those conversations, being lovingly familiar with Hilda's direct approach to managing the church and us! (you're a star Hilda. God bless you. Ed).

God willing, we're all looking forward to many years of stability and growth under Paul's leadership. Welcome to Mellor Paul, Judith and family.

Richard Jones
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