This week, we have a special guest contribution from Tom Crowley, working as a PA in Kentish Town. Here’s what he has to say:
I’ve been reading this blog with interest over the past few months, learning about the exploits of this year’s crop of Hornsey PAs; so I was thrilled when they asked me to write a guest post this week while they were away in Walsingham. Having spent the last year working in Kayleigh’s current job at Hornsey Parish Church, and now working as a PA at St Benet’s Kentish Town, it’s been fascinating to see the differences and the similarities between the two churches in quite different settings and at different stages of development.
My time at St Benet’s had a somewhat unorthodox start; Fr Peter was away recovering from an operation for my first few weeks meaning that weekday services were suspended and things were quieter than usual. This had the flipside, however, of allowing me the opportunity to join the weekday worship in Hornsey and so I was able to join with both familiar faces and new arrivals for the office and daily Mass, which was lovely. I was also able to experience the 7.30am Morning Prayer (fortunately not part of my schedule last year) which was less lovely.
Of course, having been in place little over a month, it would be premature to start making any grand comparisons between the two positions. That said, already it is clear that many elements are the same; for example Mass and the offices are said daily. There is also a parish primary school, where Fr Peter leads worship every week and where we come to help out with various RE lessons. Last week saw my first visit, where we went along to the year six RE class to talk to the pupils about how Christians use colour and beauty in worship – an excellent chance for Fr Peter to get out all his vestments at once. Some lucky children even got to try on a few, although much to my distress I wasn’t allowed to do any dressing up. Instead, I was confined to assuring the children that the chalice and monstrance they were passing around was indeed worth an awful lot of money – though not quite the £10m that one excitable ten year old suggested.
As in many churches, there is also ongoing catechesis which at Hornsey took the form of the new Pilgrim Course. St Benet’s has joined with our neighbouring parish of St Luke’s for an Alpha Course, which is really quite different and I approached with more than a little trepidation. Attending weekly with a small group of parishioners on a Wednesday evening has, however, changed my view entirely of the course and I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen. Although very much an introductory course, which admittedly the name would suggest, it has been an excellent opportunity to revisit and discuss the fundamentals of my faith with people from a variety of backgrounds. In fact, one such discussion has given me the basis for my first sermon (I won’t give you any spoilers!).
But there are, naturally, differences. One such is the journey in; the ten minute walk to work in Hornsey – which so often seemed like an unreasonably long journey first thing on a morning – pales in comparison to my two buses which can sometimes take up to an hour… On the plus side, when I arrive it’s my job to ring the bells before Mass and so on, which I confess to finding particularly exciting.
Even more shocking to the system than my newfound familiarly with London buses, is the amount of physical work I do around the church. Arguably the biggest difference I have experienced so far between placements, is the much greater amount of time I spend painting, climbing ladders and generally wearing tracksuits. My crowning triumph so far is certainly getting to the very top of some rather unsteady step ladders to replace a broken light bulb. That the issue later transpired to be the wrong switch being pressed, rather than a blown bulb, in no way diminishes my success.
Having spent a year working as a PA, I was a little worried that a second year before – hopefully – the beginning of my time at seminary could be repetitive and perhaps not especially useful. But already I can see that this will not be the case. Every indication is that this year will be one where I can build on the foundations of a wonderful year spent at Hornsey to deepen my understanding of the life and work of a priest, to grow in faith and discipleship and to further discern God’s will for my life.
I was sincerely grateful to have been able to spend a year doing exactly that, and feel truly blessed that I have the opportunity to continue to do so over the coming year. I hope that all three of the Hornsey PAs have as transformational a time as I did, and would ask you all to pray for them, and me, as we all continue on our paths of discernment.