new priest is supervising the process of stuffing his life into a removal van in preparation for moving here. I know this because of Facebook - I even know that he began feeding the removers cups of tea at an early hour. Good old Facebook, and good old Blogger: we get to know people we've only spoken to for five minutes.
But do we? There is the comforting recognition of shared interests, of course, not the least being an interest in Web 2.0 communication. But despite this, there is a feeling of anticipation that is at once joyful and apprehensive. For a church does not stay alive for a year without a great deal of work from the congregation, people who have had to sublimate their various antipathies in the interests of the common good, people who have had to step far out of their comfort zones, Marys who have turned into Marthas and vice-versa.
The arrival of a new priest should not, of course, mean that all cooperation and hard work ceases forthwith while we all revert to tearing each other's hair out. But there is this sense of handing over the authority to make decisions from a group to one person whom at the moment we barely know. I've been trying to find analogies - is it like when you send your four-year-old to school for the first time? Or when your kids leave home? For this church is ours - maybe more ours than it's been in all the 36 years I've worshipped here. We've made huge decisions about rot and repairs, we've made huge efforts over money and our future, we've held our breath to know if someone would be appointed here or if we'd be stuck with visiting clergy (lovely, but not the same) for ever. And yes, we've felt ownership.
A new priest arrives with so much hope invested in them (I'm using this neutral if sloppy pronoun on purpose) - for growth, for care of souls, for care of our tired spirits. It is that hope which renders us all - priest and people alike - vulnerable as the four-year-old I postulated earlier. No wonder there are nerves on both sides of the equation.
Meanwhile, however, the future looks bright; the Rectory is in better nick than it's been in the whole of my time here and maybe ever (double glazing, for a start), and there's going to be a family living in it. So here's to all of us - and if you're the praying type, spare us a prayer!