A new Team Vicar for St Matthias
The Rev’d Anne Crawford
I was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, the daughter of a miner and a nursery nurse. I spent the first ten years of my life living in Barnsley, and then at the age of ten my Dad changed career and we moved north to live in Scotland, to the beautiful town of Bridge of Allan near Stirling. After school I went to college in Glasgow and on to work in Stirling’s Central Library – a dream job for a book worm – working across departments and often going out with the mobile library service travelling all around the Trossachs. Just after my 21st birthday I moved south with my family to live in Hertfordshire, taking a temporary seasonal job with Marks & Spencer at Marble Arch whilst I waited for a transfer to the local library. I loved the buzz of working in central London and the temporary post became permanent and I went on to train as a supervisor in the food hall. I married Allan (we met at school in Stirling) shortly afterwards, and after a year living and working for Marks & Spencer in Bristol we settled down to married life back in Hertfordshire. We are the very proud parents of three daughters: Rebecca is married to Robert and works in marketing; Helen is an infant teacher and lives with her partner Andy in Luton; and our youngest daughter Sophie lives in Liverpool with boyfriend Danny and is just about to begin studying for a Masters in international business.
When the girls were growing up I worked part time for Waitrose, and increasingly became more and more involved in the liturgical and social life of our parish church, even setting up and managing a community café from the church hall. Once our youngest daughter started school I began work in the Education Centre at St Albans Cathedral, and it was here that I finally picked up the courage to test my vocation to priesthood. I trained on the St Albans and Oxford Ministry Course and was ordained deacon in the cathedral in 2004 and priested in 2005, serving my title at All Saints Leighton Buzzard, part of the Ouzel Valley Team. During my training I also spent two very happy years working as a student chaplain at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and in my curacy I gave some time as a retail chaplain for Tesco. When my curacy came to an end I was appointed Rector of Toddington and Chalgrave in Central Bedfordshire and have had a full and rewarding ministry here for almost 9 years, introducing Messy Church and finding new ways of making a very traditional Church relevant to people of all ages and stages in life. I love using art as a resource for preaching and teaching, and find symbolic language invaluable when helping people to explore belief and deepen faith. I have just enjoyed three months study leave exploring the healing nature of gardening and the sacred space which gardens provide, and have visited some inspiring projects, my favourite being Horatio’s Garden at Salisbury Hospital’s spinal injuries unit.
The Church has always been a part of my life: my parents took me to church from the minute I was born and I grew up going to Sunday school (usually under protest!). I ‘caught’ my faith from my Gran who was Sacristan in her local church in Huddersfield for 40 years, and I have very vivid memories as a child of being taken along to help her set up for Sunday services. She taught me about prayer and stillness and what it means to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. I was also profoundly influenced as a child by sitting beside and watching my Dad’s mining friends in church on Sundays, men who despite the dangers of their work, and the roughness of their hands (and their language!) were visibly moved and humbled at the altar rail as they kneeled to receive Christ in to their hands at the Eucharist. My childhood experiences of Church deepened my faith and have shaped my spirituality, theology and practice in so many ways, and because of this I’m passionate about making the Church’s worship and liturgy accessible to children, and to their parents who more often than not these days sadly have no experience of Church unless they were fortunate enough to attend a church school.
Incarnational theology which informs pastoral ministry – being a visible Vicar out and about in the community, making time to visit, to listen and to hear – has always been the bedrock of my life as a parish priest, but society is changing and the other day I heard someone speak about ‘excarnation’, about young people especially experiencing the world through technology rather than through their bodies, communicating through cyber space rather than in person, their heads down and their minds isolated from what’s going on around them. ‘Excarnation’ is a scary prospect, but discipleship is always about grappling with the issues which affect a person’s ability to blossom and flourish and live life in all its fullness. What that might mean for us as we begin a new phase of ministry together, working to be the Body of Christ in Richmond, sowing seeds of faith and hope, and making God’s love known and his Church relevant, is an exciting and challenging prospect. My task as part of the clergy team will be to join in the encouraging, enabling and equipping of our congregations, so that we can all play our part to the full, responding to the needs of our community in this day and age, and rejoicing in the good news which is Jesus Christ, God incarnate, alive and at work in and through each one of us.
I am looking forward very much to the move to Richmond later in the autumn, to meeting you all and sharing the journey together.
Anne’s licensing will take place on Monday 14 November 2016, 7.30pm. All are invited to this service.