Blog from self-isolation No 3

by Mark Thomas

On Easter day our daughter Beth and I got up at 5.30am to listen to the dawn chorus and watch the sunrise on that beautifully clear morning. Afterwards we went back inside to watch the last two sections of the excellent Easter Vigil “Rumours of hope” before Keri joined me in linking up with our own Easter celebration from Witney. Beth joined her former congregation in Edinburgh. It all made for a memorable way to celebrate Easter day, topped off by a glass of champagne at lunchtime, my first taste of alcohol since the beginning of Lent!

What struck me about celebrating Easter in these Covid-19 days was both its domestic intimacy and also the sense of the wider Christian world of which we are part. At various times during Holy Week I joined a church in Chelsea, my former congregation in Shrewsbury, St Matthew’s Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, the national Rumours of Hope Easter Vigil (which includes a memorable, thoughtful talk by our own Joanna) and the various Services from Witney. Balanced against that wider picture was the way our Zoom Services take us into people’s kitchens and living rooms. And I like the way Toby’s “Hope” background makes him look like a tele-evangelist!

Of course we are all longing for the Lockdown to end, but it is also teaching us to watch for and be alert to the presence of the Risen Christ in the midst of that domestic intimacy, in the glorious signs of Spring that amazed Beth and me on Easter morning, and in the compassion and masked faces of those on the frontline of care in our hospitals and care homes. Having to slow down is making us more observant of the holiness of the ordinary, of that which surrounds us, which we can all too easily take for granted, and which a daily time of silent prayer opens our eyes, ears and hearts to notice with deep joy. I’m sure that’s a lesson that will change our lives for the better once some sort of normality is restored.

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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