Greetings from Reverend Ted Whittaker

IMG_0695 head smallHello everyone, and very warm greetings to you all, from me, Ted (the Anglican Priest appointed to the neighbourhood. In September.) To be honest, I was so busy moving house, seeing to our children elsewhere, and trying to figure out my new job that I missed the deadline for the October edition, and so this is my first foray into the Abberley Parish News and Temespan magazine jungles!

In terms of silly job titles, I think mine comes quite high on the list: I am (officially) . . . wait for it . . . “Priest in Charge of Abberley, Shrawley and The Witleys and Teme Valley North” – which is Church of England speak for the minister of the churches and parishes of (going west to east) Knighton-on-Teme, Lindridge, Pensax, Stockton-on-Teme, Abberley St Mary, Abberley St Michael, Great Witley, Little Witley and furthest west but by no means least, Shrawley.

Methinks I am just going to call myself the Area (Anglican) Priest!!

Of course, being Edward and a priest, some people call me Father Ted. I really don’t mind, as long as it’s done in fun (it is a great ice-breaker) but I don’t want to be called ‘Father Ted’ regularly because I am not a High Church Anglican: I am nobody’s ‘Father in God’; people do not need to come through me to access God: all anyone needs to do is talk with Him directly. We call it ‘prayer’ in the church, but it is simply conversing with God, and anyone can do it at any time. Just Ted is fine for me!

Want to know anything about me? Well, I was born in Hyde, Cheshire, though I don’t remember the occasion at all – which is probably for the best like everyone else. I was baptized as an infant in Disley Parish Church on the edge of the Pennines, where we lived then. I have early memories of that cold winter: 1962 was it? We had snow half way up the upstairs windows while downstairs was pitch dark!!! We moved a few times in my childhood – Hyde, Disley, Hazel Grove, Crewe and then Wistaston between Crewe and Nantwich, where my parents still live though they downsized a few years’ ago moving a short distance in so doing. I have two sisters, wife Caroline, and two children Hannah and Peter.

What else – my first degree was in Physics although I spent more time at the Salvation Army than the lecture theatre. I have worked in medical physics, then trained and worked as a teacher, before post-graduate theological studies and full-time ministry.

My Christian faith is important to me, rooted the generosity of God whose love is so radical and outrageously kind that it offends some religious people who think God is like an over-bearing old fashioned head teacher. Though I was baptized as a child and my parents religiously took me to church until I was 12, I refused to be confirmed because I thought church was an unhappy place and boring. In those days a child could see nothing for hats, made worse because we used to sit near the back. During communion the women near the back of church used to sit chatting and gossiping bad things, but if ever I made the slightest sound they swung around, put their fingers over their lips and hissed SSSSHHHHH loudly and aggressively. As we all know, if there’s one thing children can spot a mile off – its hypocrisy. To me, those women represented all churchgoers, and I took my chance to leave.

However, secretly, I started to read the Bible for myself – only to prove it was rubbish of course. My grammar school had given each of us a copy of the Revised Standard Version, and I used that one. To be honest, and to my astonishment the first books captivated me. The great sweeping narratives of Genesis and Exodus were (despite the confusing names) real attention-grabbers to this skeptical 12 year old. If the rest of the Bible had been as glorious and exciting perhaps I might have changed my mind. But the next book in the Bible was Leviticus: a (to me) dreadful assembly of laws and rules. Somewhere in the midst of regulations on boils, sores, and skin diseases I abandoned my quest: decided church and the Bible were rubbish, and that should have been that. But one night, some years later in those mixed-up rebellious teenage years, somehow, from nowhere, as I sat one night on a canal bank feeling sad, God broke through. Not the cold God of my childhood church that condemned everyone as ‘sinners’, nor the God of hypocritical church goers who scolded children for doing less than what they did themselves, but a God of love. The God of Genesis who created, somehow, all things, loved me to bits: it was a revelation and changed me.

But it wasn’t until I was at University that I made the connection with Jesus Christ. And that was because, as it usually is, a church-going Christian explained the Christian Faith to me, and how I could experience God within, rather than ‘out there somewhere’. I committed my life to Christ, and though I have not been entirely consistent since (though God has), the compass was definitely set on the path to full-time ministry. First in the Salvation Army, serving in the East End of London and Essex, and then in the North East of England, before moving to the Church of England for personal theological reasons. Indeed, I am that most dangerous of creatures – a person who is a member of the Church of England by conviction and with confidence, though definitely not fundamentalist.

And here I am, Area Priest of Goodness Knows What – as I say affectionately of this wonderful crazy complex network of churches. And living in a place we have not been to before – where neighbours are ever so friendly, and have dropped off cards, cakes, or called in to say hello, and offered their help, and where several church-goers express a concern that I don’t work too hard! (Honest everyone, many really do care about their priest!) It is me being ministered to in many ways, rather than the other way round?

That is probably more than enough: if you are still reading, I congratulate you on your stamina!!

So here is a date for your diary . . . Sunday January 31st, 2016 which date will be the real start of my ministry here. Before then, I am going to put it some new structures and shape to the network of churches, to make a seemingly-impossible job become do-able for everyone’s benefit. Once they are in place, I will start my ministry properly. On that Sunday we will have an early communion for those who like them, at 8.00 am somewhere, and then a mid-morning celebration of good things, and the commissioning of our Area Team. There is also meantime, a consultation about changing the times of Sunday services to help get round the churches more regularly.

One last thing: if you do see me around and about – the bearded round one with the clerical collar – don’t run off, I don’t bite, do please say hello. And you can call me Father Ted and laugh, if you really must!

Your friend and Area Priest
Ted Whittaker

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