From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – February 2020

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear friends;

We have just heard the sad news of the death of The Reverend Mike Stokes, who was Vicar of Chesterton with Middleton Stoney and Wendlebury from 1989-95, and also a predecessor of mine as Rural Dean of Bicester and Islip. Mike was widely held in high regard, as was his wife Pat, and we send our condolences to his sons Andrew and Jonathan. The funeral will be in St Mary’s, Chesterton, on Monday 9 March at 12 noon.

Thinking about Mike has made me wonder what makes a good vicar. We have recently been advertising for a House for Duty priest, and it was an interesting challenge to be involved in framing the advert. Of course, we all tend to want a saint – good with the elderly, good with the young, a good preacher, a good visitor, a good listener, dynamic, a nice manner, etc etc! It’s quite a tall order for those of us called to this ministry. Surprisingly enough we, like you, have our individual faults and idiosyncrasies!

The Church of England has been criticised in some quarters, with some justification in my view, for being too managerial and too much focussed on outcomes and results. What, after all, is the measure of a ‘successful’ church? Most of our village churches are supported by a relatively small group of faithful Christians, who do their very best to live out the life that God calls us to. Having said that, it is important that clergy are accountable, and they should make to time to think about the way they spend their time, where they put their energy and focus, and what their priorities are. To this end I found it helpful yesterday to have my Ministry Development Review.

Here are some words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer which I have found helpful: ‘No one builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on his way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must proclaim – he builds. We must pray to him – he builds. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of building. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are when it is pulled down. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his Church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Church, do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough.’


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