It’s been just over three years since James and I moved to Halse for me to become the curate in the benefice of Milverton, Halse, Fitzhead and Ash Priors and it is now time for us to say goodbye as we move on to pastures new.
It was a very strange time to start my curacy, between Covid lockdowns during the summer of 2020. This was the time when there were no church services and no opportunities to meet people in pubs, cafés or in homes. Remember the days of constant mask-wearing and being forever 2 metres apart?! We remain grateful to Stephen and Ann Hoole who gave us a temporary home for the summer, to all those who met us on walks around the villages, for meetings in gardens and churchyards and all who helped us settle in. We will always remember those initial times when we could not meet in person, that we did much online and it was lovely to have a small group from across the benefice joining us on Zoom for Compline during the winter months and those who watched our films during Lent, including James’ popular baking segment!
We have so many wonderful memories of church and village life. Many of our church services moved outside, whatever the weather! It was so lovely to see people gather for services at Harvest, Remembrance, Easter and Rogation – I particularly remember the brave few who got extremely wet at the 2020 Harvest service on Ash Priors Common! We absolutely love Christmas and many of our fondest memories are from recent festive seasons. Making a giant Christingle for the service in Ash Priors, leading midnight masses in Milverton and Fitzhead, Christmas Day in Halse when we sang O Come All Ye Faithful outside, carol singing in the street in Fitzhead and by the bonfire in Ash Priors, and Carols by Candlelight in Halse churchyard.
It has been an absolute privilege to be your curate. I have valued getting to know so many people; the individual conversations over coffee, getting to know people on dog walks and over a G&T in the pub and simply ‘doing life’ together. Being a part of people’s lives, as is so often the case for clergy, is also about being a part of the important occasions of baptisms, weddings and funerals; and sharing these deeply personal moments of both joy and sorrow with many local families, will stay with me forever.
There are many other activities that we have enjoyed in each of the communities. The Milverton Street fair and Candlelit Bazaar, the Fitzhead fete and variety of events in the Tithe Barn and events at Ash Priors village hall, including the lovely Harvest lunches. Of course, Halse will always hold a special place in our hearts and as local residents we were able to get involved in more of village life than was possible elsewhere. We are hugely grateful for the fun and laughter of being involved with Halse Players, the village choir, the pub quiz and the many village events, (too many to mention), at the church, the pub and the village hall. Max, our Old English Sheepdog who joined our family in 2022, will miss his walks around Halse and the friends he made along the way too! (With our apologies to those who experienced his enthusiastic greetings!)
We have truly valued the sense of community and all the friendships we have made across the benefice. So, goodbye and many thanks to all who have made us so welcome. I would like to say a particular thank you to the benefice team of Revd Helene Stainer, Sandra Lee and Lynn Lake who have all been fantastic to work alongside and get to know as friends too. As our time here comes to an end, it would be lovely to see you at my last service in the benefice, which is on September 10th at 11.15am at Milverton church and afterwards for a ‘bring and share’ lunch.
We will then be moving to Pembrokeshire, where I will be Priest-in-Charge in the Bro Teifi Local Ministry Area with pastoral responsibility for Dinas, Nevern and Newport, which is a beautiful area on the coast of West Wales. My Mum, sister and brother-in-law already live locally, so although we are sad to leave, we also have much to be excited about. Do please stay in touch and let us know if you are ever in the area on holiday. (If you happen to be nearby on the evening of September 29th, please do come along to my licensing service at Nevern church at 6pm!)
So long, farewell and many thanks,
Emma, James and Max xxx