All Saints with St James’ Church, Brightlingsea
Introducing our new Vicar, Reverend Caroline Beckett
We asked Caroline if we could interview her for the Native magazine to introduce her to a wider audience. She thought it would be a good idea to ask the congregation if they had any questions to put to her to answer. So, that’s what we did. We asked people for their questions, passed them to her and she wrote this article to try and answer them.
Golden Autumn days surely rank among life’s greatest joys: at least, they do for a nature-lover like me. As I write this, I am sitting in my lovely new garden looking
out at the sycamore leaves dancing in the breeze above a lawn washed with sunlight, having escaped the walls of boxes that loom on every side indoors.
Over the past few days I have wondered whether I have too many possessios! Though I find, as I unpack, that in reality each large box holds a lot of fluff and
packing paper and relatively few actual items. Getting to know a person (or a place or group) can be a similar experience to unpacking. At the start, you’re not sure what a box contains, though from the print on the outside you can get a vague idea. Digging deeper makes things clearer but it does take time and effort to separate fluff from treasure and it may yield surprises. In the same way, it is difficult to know someone from a short article, or first impression. Just as, when I am unpacking, I look out the most vital things first, so in this article I am starting from the first questions I have been asked. Questions are wonderful things, often revealing as much about the asker as the hearer and unlocking all kinds of discussion, learning and growth. According to Martin Copenhaver, in the Bible Jesus asked 307 questions (and he already knew everything) which shows how much questions matter! He was asked 183 questions by others, of which he only answered 3. I plan to give a few more answers than that to the questions folkhave submitted…
What’s the most important thing to know about me? I love God very much and God loves me incredibly and inexhaustibly and it is from that wellspring that everything else in me draws its life. Given my profession, that might seem obvious, but I am never tired of pointing it out because really, with the world in
the state it is in, love is the only meaningful place to start. A question I try to begin each day with is this: “God, what can I do today to bring you joy?”
I love people too, in all of their messy, gorgeous, baffling complexity. I have to lovely teenagers, Danielle known as Danni (15) and Thomas (13), and a new
husband, Michael, whose humour, integrity, patience and relentless problem-solving will no doubt be an asset as he settles into the community.
We both come from large families and with my late husband Rev. Rhys Martin’s family too, plus a brilliant mixed bag of friends, I never lack for company. So, in
answer to the question, How do you spend you free time? I often spend it with family and friends! I do have a long list of hobbies and interests too, including
reading, writing, singing, walking, paddle boarding, drawing and painting, sailing, craft, social action with Colchester Citizens Alliance, volunteering with
Colchester Foodbank, playing with our four cats, travel and going to festivals and gigs.
What music do I listen to? It very much depends on my mood. I like everything from Classical to Rock, Folk to Punk, Goth to Gospel. Music stirs deep things
in us that we often barely understand: it can help us to feel and ease us when we feel too much at once; it can give structure to sorrow or anger, expression
to joy and love. Particular favourites of mine are Barber’s Adagio, Tallis, Taverner, Taizé chant, New Model Army, Muse, Evanescence, modern worship
compilations and (our ‘guilty pleasures’) Abba, Queen and the ‘Les Misérables’ soundtrack for those in-car, whole-family sing-alongs.
Why did I decide to train for the priesthood? To cut a very long story short, because God asked me: at first when I was in my teens and then more
insistently in later life. How? Through conversations with people, Bible verses popping up, ‘signs’ here and there and an inward tugging feeling, a little like
being hooked through the middle with a crochet hook and gently pulled into alignment. It was less a decision and more a growth towards, over time. The
privilege of priesthood is to accompany God’s people at their best and brightest times and at their lowest and darkest times too. It involves building a relationship
of love with God and others that will quite simply transform the world around us. It is the best job in the world.
Coast or land? Sea or countryside? Both if I can get them, but I need a tang of salt in the air to really feel at home. What do I enjoy most about Brightlingsea?
I grew up in Alresford and am always happiest when the sea is not far from my doorstep. That was a big draw for me in coming here, coupled with the fact that
I went to secondary school here, had my first Saturday job in the Pharmacy here, spent my childhood summers here and have a sister living here. Being
able to stick our paddleboard or kayak in the water often and have that early morning or late evening dip, or hop on board dad’s boat for a day’s sail, are all
definite advantages. As far as other activities are concerned, I imagine I’ll discover them in time. I was a bit gutted to watch Brightlingsea Regent lose to
Torquay Utd despite a valiant fight and plan to be back when I get chance to cheer them on again (resisting sneaky prayers for a win…).
A couple of my questioners were curious about the Goth Eucharist I lead at Greenbelt Festival, having seen the recent interview with me in the ‘War Cry’
magazine. I am a complex person with many facets, as we all are, and Goth culture is one such facet. Goth is a subculture that includes particular types of
music, ways of dressing, interests, films, references, ways of seeing life, topics of conversation and so on and, at its best, it is exploratory: challenging the things
a lot of us just accept and looking at the darker side of life that people often try to suppress or avoid. This can be honest, healthy and authentic if done well.
Embracing people as they are, giving space in worship for doubt and anger, sorrow and anxiety, as well as joy and fun, is actually very Biblical – the Psalms
are a prime example. The Goth Eucharist is an event where Christian Goths and those who are curious can gather and worship together and pray for and
support one another. As for whether such a service would ‘work’ here, that is a question to discuss later once I know the community better, but, whatever the
style of worship, church the way God wants it should be the one place we feel safe enough to be our real selves.
I have already been told, many times, that I ‘don’t look like a vicar’, which does prompt the cheeky side of me to wonder what a vicar looks like (answers on a
postcard…). God’s people are diverse and those God calls to ordination are just as varied. I know a number of you have questions about what kind of vicar I will be and what service patterns and church life will look like once I take up the role. The first and easiest answer is I don’t know yet. I have been involved in high church,
low church, in the middle church, we-don’t-know church and lots of different denominations of church, before washing up on the broad shore of the Church
of England. The kind of vicar I will be will come out of a meeting between who I am and what this church and community in its current season needs. Very
little, if anything, will change overnight, as I plan to live the existing pattern, talk and listen to those involved and learn what goes on here already, before
beginning discussions about what we might like to change, strengthen, prune or plant.
I hope I have at least begun to answer some of your questions and I very much look forward to meeting a lot of you over time, and to the conversations we will
have as we shape church life in Brightlingsea together in the years ahead.
+ Every blessing, Caroline
Vicar: Rev’d Caroline Beckett B.A. (Hons), The Vicarage, Richard Avenue Brightlingsea CO7 0LP Tel 01206 30 87 26 : email@example.com
Enquiries may be directed to the church office either on 01206 30 23 78 or firstname.lastname@example.org There is an out-of-hours answering service: telephone and email messages are collected and answered regularly. The Church Office is open on Mondays 10-12pm. Letters can be posted through to the office when St James is open 8am-2pm each weekday.
Alternatively please contact one of the churchwardens:-
Carole Warren 825 027 email@example.com
Bob Goodenough 30 37 49 firstname.lastname@example.org
PCC Secretary/PCC Treasurer: c/o Church Office, Victoria Place, Brightlingsea CO7 0AB
Parish website: allsaintswithstjamesb-sea.co.uk
Services (For details click here)
1st, 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month: 8.00 communion and 10.00 Parish Eucharist at St James
3rd Sunday of each month: 8.00 communion and 10.00 Parish Eucharist at All Saints and 10.00 Sparklers at St James.
5th Sunday: 8.00 communion and 10.00 All-age worship at St James.
Tuesday: 9.00 a.m. informal prayer at St James
Wednesday: 10.00 said communion at St James
Thursday: 8.15 informal prayer at St James
Friday: 10.30 Prayers for the sick at St James.
Events (For details click here)
Baptisms Weddings and Funerals Click here
For News and Information click here
For all contact details click here
Our Mother Church, All Saints’, although no longer the central place of worship, is an integral and essential part of our life together. We seek to enhance its role within the affections of the community and to worship there regularly. The Sunday services (8.00 communion and 10.00 Parish Eucharist) are held at All Saints every third Sunday in the month. At the same time there is a ‘Sparklers’ Sunday School for 4-12 year-olds on the 3rd Sunday of each month at St James at 10.00.