Catching up with a curate
Catching up with Revd Richard Wallis, a curate who has been working with the Eight Saints Cluster for the past year was a surprisingly serene experience. Eight Saints isn’t in any way euphemistic – it really is eight saints from eight different churches covering a wide demographic across rural Cornwall.
From Feock to Chacewater, with St Day and five parishes in between, the personalities of each church are distinct and their way of doing things particular to each. “But that’s what makes my job so interesting!” says Richard. “Most use the Book of Common Prayer, but with each, the responses are nuanced and very important to that church, so I had to quickly get up to speed.”
Using and enjoying the Book of Common Prayer has been a surprise for Richard who came from less formal churchmanship. “The words are beautiful. Taking it slowly, letting the words do the work, is an amazing thing to be a part of and to share.”
Seeing the sacraments coming to life
One of the joys of the job has been assisting at baptisms. “Is there anything more special than holding a baby in your arms and giving the reassurance that God has touched them, that they are loved and will never be on their own?” Richard says it’s about seeing the sacraments coming to life, living them out rather than just learning or talking about them.
“Amazing!” Richard says amazing quite a lot.
“Is there anything more special than holding a baby in your arms and giving the reassurance that God has touched them, that they are loved and will never be on their own?”
Amazing was also how he feels about the privilege of ministering to people wherever they are and wherever they cross his path or seek him out. “We talk a lot about big missional plans and outreach but just being in the community, wearing my dog collar, mission is all around.”
From funerals to tea-parties, people seek him out. “I get invited into people’s holy places. It’s an immense privilege. My role is to listen and hold what I’m told in my heart – that’s very important. I never pass on what people share with me.”
That’s a privilege but surely a burden too. How does he cope with carrying the pastoral care of so many? “I have a professional supervisor, who has been an incredibly important figure in my life. I employ him; he’s from outside of the church and the area and he’s a great sounding board, who also isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m talking rubbish!”
Eight Saints, eight churches and a curate
So back to all eight of these saints. How does that work? “I’m just a curate, so they are not all my responsibility – I leave that to Simon and Karen!” That’s Revd Canon Fr Simon Bone and Revd Karen Hunter Jones. “My job has just been to get to know everybody, although I will be taking on responsibility for Gwenapp in July, which will be amazing (obviously).”
Another top tip for a first year’s curacy is planning. “Simon has been a brilliant support and taught me well the value of planning and seeming to be in control – even if I’m not!” Richard talked about conducting funerals, the chance to minister to the families and honour the dead – but also about timing. “For so long I worried I’d push the button (to commit the coffin) too early! But I realised, if I end the service next to the coffin, where I want to be, making a connection by praying for the person who has died, the crematorium do the honours for me.”
“Revd Fr Simon has been a brilliant support and taught me well the value of planning and seeming to be in control – even if I’m not!”
Impossible in our own strength
Bishop Philip said they cannot do their job in their own strength, “And he wasn’t wrong,” says Richard. “You have to hand over to God. It’s when I try to wrestle back control, that’s when wheels start to fall off!”
“It’s when I try to wrestle back control, that’s when wheels start to fall off!”
Whatever wheels might have fallen off this past year, Reverend Richard Wallis was in a great place. Loving his job, the people in his care and open to the wonder and amazement of it all.