The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


At the end of June St. George’s Church had to say a temporary farewell to Fr. Timon and Noreen Singh and to their family. Often when an Assistant Curate leaves a parish there’s a whole mixed bag of emotions. For the curate and his family there’s a sense of real loss, bereavement almost, at leaving a familiar place with known people, but tinged with the excitement of moving to a new parish - often with wider responsibilities. Members of the congregation may well experience the same loss but have a sense of pride that “their boy” has completed his apprenticeship and supported by their friendship and prayers, is now fleeing the nest to begin a new ministry.

This summer, though, is not a happy time for Timon or Noreen, for Rachel, for Tabitha or for Ben. It’s not happy because Timon has not yet found the place to which God is calling him and so the good-byes seem rather premature and hollow. The family is unsettled and unsure about their future. So what’s happening?

Timon moved here from Oxford 4 years ago. The Bishop of Oxford had examined him and sent him to a national selection conference where the Church accepted him for training. He spent three years at theological colleges in Oxford but at the end there was no post for him in that diocese, so after a long time of searching and doubting, he came here. The Bishop of Portsmouth Ordained Timon and we rejoiced to have him and we welcomed Noreen and the family to St. George’s.

From that moment Timon, like all new Curates, knew his stay at Waterlooville would be 4 years. That’s the length of a curacy - and it’s all part of his training. The Bishop and all of us here, have been delighted and proud to be involved in his training, but sadly that’s it. There’s no commitment from anyone in the diocese or the parish to give Timon a stipendiary post afterwards. Just like any apprentice, Timon now has to find a job - and he can go anywhere in this country or in the world, which of course makes the search both exciting and frightening. It’s made more difficult by trying to tease out what God’s plans are for Timon and by the knowledge that the whole family is disrupted by moving from one diocese to another.

That’s the history but what about the future for Fr. Timon? The way clergy are appointed has changed over the last two years. The introduction of something called Common Tenure has in many ways made the priest’s employment position more secure in the long term but it’s also had the effect of making Bishops more cautious in making appointments. There are several ways in which parishes and priests are joined together, but normally jobs are advertised, candidates are interviewed and one will be appointed. Somehow in all this we believe that the Holy Spirit guides and directs people. Even through selection committees, short listing panels and interviews galore we believe that God will call Timon to the right place.

There’s no excitement yet though. Timon’s 4 years are up and so far he has nowhere in which to continue as a stipendiary minister so the Bishop has extended Timon’s licence for three months, and over the summer he’ll be working at St. John’s Church, Purbrook, helping a parish in interregnum. He’ll also be spending some time gaining experience in health care ministry at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Our June farewell to Timon and Noreen was temporary and later in the summer we will see them again. Then we’ll have the chance to say our good-byes properly, but they are going through a torrid time at the moment and desperately need both our love and our prayers. Timon’s applications have been unsuccessful so far but he is continuing to apply for posts and your PCC has written to the Archdeacon and the Bishop to seek their advice and their assistance.

Timon has done an excellent job here at St. George’s, and we’ll miss him enormously.  We can be proud of the part we’ve played in training someone for the ordained ministry, but as we face the future, bleak as it may seem, we need to know the truth. At the end of September, Timon and Noreen will have to leave their house - even if Timon still has no stipendiary position. He may, of course, decide to explore non-stipendiary ministry but European Employment legislation requires that the house is vacated and his training position at St. George’s comes to an end. Unless the Bishop overturns that, there’ll be no further chances. As a Church and as a caring, loving community, one of our number is hurting very badly and it’s only right that you should know. Timon needs your prayers.

Let us pray that the news will change.

Let us pray that God will reveal both where and to what kind of ministry Timon is called.

Let us pray that, come September, we’ll be rejoicing with Timon and Noreen over their new appointment. So we look forward in faith - faith that God will make this summer a time of rejoicing for Fr. Timon and for his family and friends here at St. George’s Church.

Fr. Mike Sheffield

Based on a sermon preached on Sunday July 1st 2012

Summer Edition 2012

From the Parish Priest