During Lent we are raising money for the Additional Curates Society. You can collect a box from church and bring the box in after Easter, or you can give online via https://additionalcurates.co.uk/support-us/
Each week I’ll be sending you the story of a Priest who was supported by the Society and what it means to the parishes involved. Here’s the second:
I am Father Jay Hewitt and I am serving my titles’ curacy in the Benefice of Central Barnsley which incorporates four parishes with five churches which range in tradition from Anglo- Catholic to Charismatic Evangelical. The context in which I minister is therefore, one of variety and incredibly diverse. The town of Barnsley is a community of extremes in which you will see absolute wealth side by side with absolute poverty and this is reflected in the ministry of the Benefice, from all the Civic services involving the local elite to ministry to the homeless and those suffering with addiction or who are on the fringes of the local society.
There are a number of contexts within the boundaries of the various parishes in which I have ministered and become involved. These include the local the hospital, Care Homes, Hospice and the local Church of England School in which I sit on the governing body. Before the pandemic, I would lead Collective Worship and serve as Deacon at the celebration of Mass once a month.
The main town church, St Mary’s, is both at the heart of the town and our benefice and is open daily for private and public worship, which includes Morning Prayer, Mass & Evening Prayer. St Mary’s is also the place in which one will interact with and minister to the homeless and those caught in addiction who often sleep and seek shelter in the Church Porch. This can indeed be challenging at times, due to the cleaning up required sometimes with only minutes before an act of worship is due to take place.
The local food bank is also managed from one of our Churches: Saint George’s and is run via a mixture of local and parish volunteers. I have taken advantage of several opportunities in assisting in this ministry.
Some of the most profound moments in my priestly ministry will occur in the street or when a stranger knocks on the Vicarage door looking for a blessing or pastoral advice, in these moments I have realised, in most cases it is best to simply listen and not talk too much.
I have, since the arriving in the parish, hosted a small Bible study group which has enabled both new and old parishioners to grow and engage with the catholic faith. One of the greatest fruits of this particular ministry has been to see parishioners forming stronger bonds of friendship and community with one another as well as a visible increase in personal piety and devotion.
To be a priest in any context is challenging in this day and age but can be particularly so in such a busy and varied context as Barnsley, in which you have to be reflexive and adaptable in order to minister to so many needs. This can indeed be exhausting, but I find great strength in the privilege and beauty of celebrating the Holy Mass, be that in a simple manner at our Evangelical Parish or in the fullness of Catholic tradition at St Mary’s. Regardless, it is always beautiful and dignified. The Joy of being a Priest is also mingled with sorrow as you accompany God’s people through their life from baptism to the grave and I have often found myself reflecting on mortality as I have watched the sick and dying and ministered to them at their bedside.
I feel in all serenity that all I have experienced and what I have yet to for the remainder of time here, will have me prepared and grounded to continue serving God’s people and His Church for the rest of public ministry and beyond.
Fr Jay Lawrence Hewitt