REV OLIVER COSS COLUMN: Sharing by learning together

I suppose we all wonder occasionally who will do what we do when we aren’t here, writes Rev Oliver Coss.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:22 pm
Rev Oliver Coss at All Saints Church, in Northampton
Rev Oliver Coss at All Saints Church, in Northampton

I can think of plenty of people who have been put into that position in a life-and-death sort of way, but for the most part, as I’m notionally in the prime of life (that’s when you’re about to hit 40, right? right...?), it’s about remembering that I’m a) not indispensable, and b) not indestructible.

So when, from time to time, I take a little rest from labour, I’m very fortunate to be able to call upon a small group of retired clergy and bishops, as well as clergy from other sectors, who will come and ensure worship happens as usual when I’m horizontal, or sunning myself, or find myself elsewhere.

It hasn’t always been so, as twice in my decade-and-a-half in priesthood, I’ve had the privilege to work alongside another priest.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The first one was training me and the second was being trained by me, but both were immensely valuable times of my life.

In Northampton, however, I’ve mostly been on my own, save those who have covered my absences, and so it was very good news to hear recently that our Diocese has begun the process of seeking someone for me to work with.

This has come as welcome news to my family, who know how much I loathe asking for help when I’m going away, and even more welcome news to the good people of All Saints who labour under the kindly delusion that I work too hard.

It’ll doubtless take some time to realise, but it’s essentially a process of writing a long document saying why Northampton is a good place (nota bene for those in the comments on Facebook, it really is), and why they might want to make it their first home after becoming a priest.

After a modest Simon Cowell-esque act of seeing candidates, I imagine we’ll be home and dry, but it’s a curious thing to go from going it alone to doing it alongside someone else.

In fact, it often changes it, but the experience of sharing helps us to realise that we rarely possess things ourselves, but only bear a part of it.

Over the last few weeks at All Saints, we’ve had an ordinand (church-speak for someone preparing to become a priest) on placement with us.

He comes from a very different sort of church, but as much as he’s gained something from being here, it also means we’ve gained someone with a different life experience that has been new to us.

It has been a great blessing.

Having someone with us who’s new provides the opportunity to explain it all, ensuring that things that belong to the everyday are done with purpose and meaning.

It’s said that the act of observing a phenomenon changes it, and I guess that’s no less true when we’re teaching it or introducing it to fresh eyes.