Farewell From The Vicarage, April 2022

If you look at the list of incumbents of Finedon, which hangs on a pillar in the north aisle, you will see that there have been fifty nine of us since records began (although one or two were dodgy, thanks to the Commonwealth in the 17th century, so the number may Vary slightly}.

The first Geoffrey de Thoars, arrived 1217. We don’t know much about him, or John de Colby, though we may surmise from his short incumbency which ended in 1349, that he was many parishioners a victim of the Black Death.

Others include The Revd Sir John Dolben, son of the Archbishop of York, who married an heiress, obtained the Golden Perbend at Durham, a lavishly funded post, and is responsible for bringing to Finedon the organ from Windsor Castle in 1777. He is my favourite, I think.

The two Pauls, Samuel and George, father and son, were vicar for one hundred and one years between them from 1810, and in more recent years John Beaumont who did more than a quarter century.

I have done eleven, which seems rather short compared with theirs, but it is longer than most incumbencies these days and the longest I have worked anywhere apart from Radio Four, which started at roughly the same time.

However, like the fifty eight others on the list, my time has come to an end. I retire at the end of this month.

I decided to retire more than a year ago, and it’s been a long time coming as we have hauled ourselves out of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. But it is finally here and on the April 24th I irrevocably surrender my rights to the living in Finedon, as the document which arrived from the Bishop’s Palace puts it. That seems rather blunt, and as the day draws nearer so does a feeling of sadness, for I have loved it here, and could not have asked for a better parish.

I’m not just saying that in a mood of fond farewell, I really mean it. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve here, and I am full of gratitude to the parish for supporting me, challenging me, and putting up with me in those eleven years, eleven years in which for me personally the best of times and the worst of times have come and gone. We all encounter rough and smooth in our lives, but the church is not bound by them, for it anticipates the life of Christ, and we proclaim our enduring story of journeying on to the triumph that awaits us.

I retire in Eastertide, the season of hope and renewal, brilliant with the light of the resurrection which dispels the darkness of the world with the dawning of a new day. For those of us who serve the church it’s a reminder that it always business as usual. Vicars come and go but the show goes on, and the next Vicar will settle in the stall vacated by the previous and so on and so on and so on.

My gift to the parish as I depart is a proper painted board listing the Vicars of Finedon, all of us from Geoffrey de Thoars onwards. Whenever I see one in another church I think how nice it would be to have one for ourselves. And so I commissioned a signwriter and had detailed discussions with him about what I thought would work. But a week or so ago I woke up in the morning with a start thinking, ‘did I remember to say to leave room after me for my successors? I wouldn’t want to look like the last of the Mohicans’.

‘No worries,’ he replied, ’I’ve left room for plenty more’.

Every blessing to you all. And if ever you’re near Eastbourne do look me up, I’d love to see you.

Yours in Christ,

Fr Richard