St Augustine: Always Hope

I’m writing this article in the week we celebrate our sixth month here in Ipswich. My family and I moved here at the end of last year and we’ve been absolutely loving getting to know our new town and the beautiful county of Suffolk.

One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot over the last few months is, ‘Hasn’t it been a struggle starting as a Vicar in the middle of a pandemic?’. I always say, ‘Yes, and no’.

It’s certainly been hard. Sharing the highs and lows of people’s lives, as I am so privileged to do, is so much harder at the end of a phone or over Zoom than in person. We all know by now the pain of not being able to simply spend time being with people but, on the other hand, I’ve seen so many examples of how we have creatively adapted and new things have become possible. It’s been thrilling to see people finding hope in Jesus and joining our church family over the last year, who otherwise might never have discovered us.

Take two of our brilliant activities for younger children, for example. Happy Hippos, our thriving parent and toddler group obviously had to close its doors last March but within a few months, the team introduced ‘Hippo Trails’ around the church grounds. Family groups come along, sit together on a mat outside, read a story, go on a treasure hunt and do a craft together. Everyone loves it and for many weeks we’ve been fully booked.

Our wonderful weekly ‘Music and Rhyme’ group, which sees under- fives and those caring for them coming together to sing favourite action songs moved online too, meaning families old and new could now join in. Soon they’ll be meeting in the park until everyone can be safely back together in church again.

I supposed we could say, as the proverb goes, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ but it feels like more than that. None of us would have chosen the way things have played out over the last year and a half but the message of Jesus is that there is always hope, no matter how bleak things appear. God is always at work, even in the midst of pain and struggle.

Revd Al Metcalfe is Vicar of St Augustine’s Ipswich, ‘the church with the lighted cross.’
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