Reverend Anne Hartley retires – officially!

annehartleyIs that a statement or a question? Who knows what retirement will be like until they try it? At this stage in my life I’ve decided to reorganise my time and focus on the family, especially as Mike and I have three grandchildren now. We have the privilege of being able to spend time with them and get to know them, so we are very lucky; they are a blessing! In particular, we enjoy looking for family traits in them – baby Thea has her great-great-grandfather’s curled under toes, which did not stop him from being an accomplished sportsman, so we hope that will not stop her.

Life often moves at such a pace that we do not take time to reflect on the past, so this is my chance to do that before embarking on this new phase. How did I get here?

Growing up in a Roman Catholic family with eight siblings, in Wolverhampton, I hardly thought I would end up as a farmer’s wife in the Cotswolds and a minister in the Church of England – yet here I am! Being a maths teacher was always on the cards so no surprise there. My various careers have dovetailed beautifully with each other and have enabled me to get to know families in this community at many different levels.

One time, when the bride was a little late for her wedding, I had the chance to look around the gathered guests and recognising many of the younger people, I asked them if I had taught them maths – a sea of hands went up! It has been, and will continue to be, a joy to marry people I’ve taught, or whose grandparents’ funerals I’ve taken, and then christen their babies and welcome their children into school and watch them grow.

This is one of the privileges of ministering as an Ordained Local Minister in one place over a period of time. I was one of eight people who embarked on training as OLMs in the Oxford Diocese in 2000. Designed for those in paid employment, the training was three years, part time, experiential learning (learn by doing it), write 32 essays and you’re done! Not only that, but I took others with me to the training courses (not for them the essay writing) and so many people in our churches benefitted and blossomed in their ministries. I even managed to persuade Vi Miles to come on the Baptism course. She assured me she would not be speaking, but it soon became apparent that she had more experience with baptism families and how to welcome them into church, than most of us put together. I believe that each of us has a ministry – we simply need to find it or recognise that we are already doing it, and God will work through us.

An important part of being an OLM is working in a team, and over the years the make-up of our team here has changed as vicars have come and gone. New styles, new technology, new relationships have all helped me to grow and hopefully to be more relevant to those we serve in this benefice. It has been a joy to see the churches working together more closely than ever in recent years, sometimes out of practical necessity, often through understanding each others’ needs better as we get to know each other.

You can tell that I love what I do and will never want to stop doing it. I will continue to be part of the team ministering in Shipton, Milton, Fifield and Idbury, as a member of the large group of retired clergy, when I can. With a grandson at Wychwood School, I will continue to work with teachers and children to encourage the special Christian character we value so much.

When my children were small, they thought that the Vicar lived in the church because he was there to open the door for us on a Sunday morning. Now, children know that I live on a farm and spend more time in school than in church as far as they can see. This term I will try to avoid what happened last October when I came into school to do an assembly about harvest, in readiness for the school Harvest Festival, only to find there had been a double booking. Bob, from the charity ‘Christmas Child’ was setting up his stall to explain the scheme known as ‘Shoeboxes for Christmas.’ Not to be outdone, I set up a table groaning with fruit and vegetables as well as wheat and a loaf of bread. We agreed that I would start – we each had ten minutes. From the crops growing in the fields, now safely gathered in and turned into bread, to fruit and vegetables which the children had grown themselves, we saw how much we had to thank our loving God for; job done!

Bob, on the other hand, had a video and pictures showing children in parts of Eastern Europe who would not receive any presents at Christmas as their families could not afford them. Faces lit up as we watched children receiving their own special present, a beautifully wrapped shoebox full of things like toys and sweets as well as gloves and toothpaste.

Now mix all those thoughts together in the minds of our caring, concerned Wychwood children:
“Mum, I need a shoebox to take to church on Friday for Harvest Festival – it’s for a child in Romania who is starving, so we can send sweets, but no bananas!”
Living and working with all of you has been a joy that I hope will continue – thanks for sharing your special moments with me.

Anne Hartley

October – November 2017