The Revd Coryn Stanforth, who finished training at Westcott House in June 2020, writes about moving into curacy and its joys and opportunities.
I was privileged to be the first person ordained deacon in the Church of England in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. I am serving my title in the Tas Valley Team Ministry in Norwich Diocese. This rural benefice is located about eight miles south of Norwich and comprises six villages and a cell church. The cells meet in people’s homes (currently online) and each group is fully church. The benefice is situated in beautiful countryside and contains seven medieval church buildings all of which hold regular services. These small communities are microcosms of larger settlements and mix affluence and pockets of deprivation within a small area.
I minister across the benefice but focus on two villages. I wanted to hear the personal stories of the residents and also the stories underpinning the community. I heard of great love for the village, how it had changed and its various traditions. These included how the locally stabled police horses were honoured guests at the school fete! I quickly discovered a passion for mission and community outreach including community lunches, ministry to the local school and care home, men’s groups and support services. There was a hope that the time would arrive soon when these initiatives could restart and the community could again come together in a new season: ‘For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
It has been a challenging season to begin a curacy, particularly in a benefice where worship, community, outreach and mission are central. It has been difficult to meet people and build relationships when meeting on screens and being socially distanced in church with face masks. The process of settling into curacy has lengthened. The importance of meaningful beginnings and endings is also highlighted. It is as though training at Westcott never ended while the benefice has had no real opportunity to welcome their new curate.
This season has also yielded opportunities. I have met members of the community by walking around the village wearing my collar and engaging with those I meet in a ministry of presence. Ordained ministry is often that of being rather than doing. Until the second lockdown there were many opportunities to plan and lead worship, as well as to preach in churches throughout the benefice. Our rural location enabled the formation of our outdoor Eco Church. The most recent session was themed around light. We gathered around the fire pit in my garden for Bible stories, toasted marshmallows and sparklers. There have also been many opportunities provided by online worship which have attracted some different people.
As the journey continues and the season changes, I hope to develop the relationship with the Church school and establish children’s work. There will also be the opportunity to take further responsibility in the two villages where I am based. In addition to the curacy I have returned to the ministry I love of mentoring and teaching trainee Readers/Licensed Lay Ministers.
The Revd Coryn Stanforth
Assistant Curate, Tas Valley Team Ministry