Notes from self-isolation

by Mark Thomas

As a long term sufferer from asthma, and more recently diagnosed with COPD and bronchiectasis I am now in the “vulnerable at risk” category and am therefore self-isolating. I am the husband of someone who had a heart attack some years ago, and also a father and grandfather and eldest son of a 90 year old mother. I have been an ordained parish priest for over 40 years. In all those ways my self-definition has been that of someone who goes out and looks after others; so it’s strange now to be defined as someone who is potentially on the receiving end of care. I am chaplain to Witney hospital and I love that work; I can determine when I visit and when I leave and am in control of the process. Now I am subject, as we all are, to something I can’t control; I am experiencing something of the vulnerability of the patients I visit in hospital, and perhaps to rediscover my true identity as a child of God, beneath all those other roles (son, husband, father, grandfather, priest) that I have acquired. I know that God won’t protect me from the virus – It’s our responsibility to make sure we take such measures as we can to ensure we stay healthy, and as a medical household (Keri, my wife, is a medical doctor and we have a daughter at medical school) we have been taking precautionary measures very seriously for some weeks. But I also believe that God will sustain us through this crisis, and that there are signs of hope and new life around us each day if we have the eyes and time to see them. Today is the Feast of the Annunciation when we celebrate that Mary had a heart that was open to the message of the angel, and to respond. And it’s my job to do the same. I hope to be able to share some of the ways in which God is sustaining me and giving me hope in succeeding days in this blog. But now as I look up from the computer screen I notice the yellow Brimstone butterflies enjoying the sunshine and calling me out to do the same.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

was born in Somerset and went to Durham university to read Economics and Sociology. The plan was that I would join the family Business in Bristol, but God had other ideas and after a brief foray into marketing and six months travelling, I was accepted for ordination training and started at Ripon College Cuddesdon in 1976.

I decided that I needed to go north and so accepted the offer of a curacy in a mining parish in West Yorkshire in the Wakefield diocese. A second curacy followed in Seaford, East Sussex, where I met Keri. I proposed three weeks after that first evening and we married in Gomersal back in West Yorkshire in 1984 where I served my first incumbency. Keri had recently qualified as a GP and started work in Cleckheaton. We had three children there, Megan, Ben and Bethany, before moving to Almondbury near Huddersfield where I was appointed Team Rector and Rural Dean and became Canon of Wakefield Cathedral.

Sophie and Imogen, our identical twin daughters, were born in Huddersfield. In 2001 I was appointed Vicar of St Chad’s and St Alkmund’s, the town centre churches in Shrewsbury in the Lichfield diocese. My final six years in Shrewsbury were very happy ones, with a good team; I loved town centre ministry and St Chad’s had a strong civic and military role.

I am a Prebendary emeritus of Lichfield Cathedral. Meanwhile Keri had started The Gold Standards Framework CIC, a not for profit Social Enterprise training health and social care professionals to give better end of life care. This was very successful and I left stipendiary parish ministry in 2013 to become executive director of the Company, and among other things developed a spiritual care of the dying programme. I finally retired at the end of 2016. We have moved to Black Bourton to be nearer our family, and especially our eldest daughter Megan, her RAF pilot husband Kurt and their two year old son Monty.

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Safeguarding: who to contact in an emergency

If a child or adult is in immediate danger or requires immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999. If there are concerns about their immediate welfare, don’t delay: call Children and Adult’s Social care on 0345 050 7666 or the MASH Out of Hours Emergency Duty Team: 0800 833408

Also please inform your Parish Safeguarding officer, Alison, on 07884 074812 or her Deputy, Ness, on 07774 524756 or Pauline on 01993 648136 that you have contacted them.

Safeguarding: who to contact with concerns

For all safeguarding concerns please immediately inform your Parish Safeguarding Officer, Alison, on 07884 074812 or her Deputy, Ness, on 07774524756 or Pauline on 01993 648136. You can also email concerns to safeguarding@witneyparish.org.uk

If you need to contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, call 01865 208290. Alternatively the Safeguarding Adviser Lisa Wilkins can be reached via lisa.wilkins@oxford.anglican.org or 01865 208295.

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