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From the Rector
At a time of year when the church remembers many of its saints such as St Peter, St Paul, England’s St Alban and our own local St Swithun. They remind us if the Church’s life for over 2000 years. During those years there have been many episodes of persecution, in-fighting and even schism – yet by God’s grace, it survives and even grows. It is also a time of year when many members of the clergy’s thoughts turn to the anniversary of their ordination, in days gone by, it was often around Trinity Sunday and more recently at ‘Petertide’ (29th June). This year we were treated to seeing Droxford Church filled with almost 300 people to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our dear colleague and special friend to the Benefice, Canon Anthony Hulbert. Those 300 people came from every parish in which he had served in those 50 years as a priest to give thanks to God for his priestly ministry. We also thank both Anthony and Nicola themselves for their love and commitment to all the people they encounter.
Despite what we read in the press, the church is alive and kicking and new vocations to ministry reflect that. We have not just celebrated ancient saints and golden jubilees, we have celebrated the ordination of new deacons and priests in the Diocese and one of those brand-new deacons, Mother Samantha Martell, will ‘serve her title’ in the Meon Bridge Benefice. She joins us as our Curate for about three years, and it is with pleasure that I give over the remainder of this ‘From the Rector’ to her.
From the Curate
I’ve had plenty of funny looks this week. And that’s all because of the little white plastic slip around my neck; my clerical dog collar. I feel like I’ve got a big sign around my neck saying, “I’M IN THE CLERGY”.
It’s going to be interesting finding out whether people get used to me in my clericals. I’d certainly like to know why. Is it because I’m, well, me? I don’t exactly fit the stereotypical vicar – but then again, I’ve never met a vicar who does. Is it a shock that a woman has been ordained? Well, the Church of England has been ordaining women deacons for 30 years.
Perhaps I’d better get used to it. After all, I had plenty of raised eyebrows when I told people how I earned my living before, as a pig farmer and butcher.
What I’m also never going to get used to is the huge privilege and the huge responsibility I feel to serve God and you all in this wonderful part of the countryside. Our Diocese has never placed a curate into rural ministry before, so I am doubly blessed.
What do I want from the next few years? To continue to find out what God wants from me, how I can best serve him and how I can best serve you all. That is not something to undertake alone. I must pray and ask for God’s guidance. And I must crave your indulgence as I, and my family, adjust to our new life, adjust to serving God in a new context and adjust to serving you all.
This is an exciting, challenging and progressive time for the Church worldwide and within our Benefice. Together we can grow, laugh, cry, love and rejoice; and with the help of God, we will!
We also congratulate Ruth Howlett-Shipley on being recommended, after a long selection and discernment process, for training as a priest. Again, please pray for Ruth and her family.
SAMANTHA FELT GOD’S CALL WHEN SHE FRACTURED HER NECK
IT was only when Samantha Martell fractured her neck and became immobile that she started listening properly to God.
Before then, the mum-of-two was so busy, working as a butcher, running her own business and bringing up her twin sons, that she hadn’t stopped. When she did, she discovered that God was calling her to become a clergy person in the Church of England.
She will be one of 11 people who will be ordained by the Bishop of Portsmouth during two services at Portsmouth Cathedral on July 1, continuing her training here for the next three years.
Samantha has always known how important God is, but didn’t realise how easy it was to speak to him until she was older. She had followed her grandfather into the butcher business, renting premises in Portsmouth.
But it was about eight years ago, as she was moving her sausage filling machine, that she had a blinding flash and felt her back twinge. The next morning she couldn’t move at first, but eventually drove to hospital. It turned out she had pressure fractures on her neck and the base of her spine.
Within a week of being in hospital, her landlord changed the locks on her business premises and sold her equipment, meaning she had to rethink the direction of her life. She threw herself into being a mum to her twins Killian and Carlisle, who are now both 15, and wife to Jonny. And she found herself asking God what he wanted her to do.
“Obviously I had to be at home a lot more, and I got involved with the children’s school in the village of Compton, in Sussex, where we lived,” she said. “I became a churchwarden at the church and chair of governors at the school.
“Then one day I was having a meeting with the vicar, and he said ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’. Without thinking about it, I said: ‘I want to be a vicar’. The words just came out of my mouth – it wasn’t quite what I was thinking at the time. But I realised that was what I wanted to do and what God was calling me to.”
She started going through the process of applying within the Diocese of Chichester, while leading family services in her home church. But it was a placement in St Peter’s Church in Petersfield that really got things moving. She spent six weeks during Lent 2013 working alongside the vicar, the Rev Will Hughes, and didn’t want to leave.
“The congregation was great, Will was brilliant, and even the bishop said he’d heard good things about me,” said Samantha. “I didn’t want to leave that Easter Sunday, but felt that changing parishes and changing dioceses wasn’t right. But within a couple of weeks of leaving St Peter’s, I decided that I needed to come back.”
She became part of the congregation for a year, and edited the parish magazine for six months. The church also helped her to get back into being a butcher – she offered to make some sausages for the church fete in summer 2013 and the exposure generated some regular customers.
Then in June 2014 she was approved for ordination and started her three-year course at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, near Oxford, that September. After her first year there, Portsmouth diocese changed the way it trained clergy and she was switched to the Portsmouth Pathway course, based at St Luke’s Church in Southsea.
“It’s humbling to feel part of something bigger than you can ever imagine, and sometimes quite scary,” she said. “But it’s where God wants me to be. I’m looking forward to being a curate in these four villages. My background is rural, so it does feel like the right place to be.”