The Revd Julie Wearing felt a calling from God when she visited St George’s church in Crosby, Scunthorpe.  Not that she had been looking for another role as she was very happy at St Faith’s in Lincoln, but the role of the Vicar of Crosby resonated with her so she had to go and have an ‘informal’ look at the church and the town parish.  As she stood in the church she was moved to tears, feeling God calling her to this place and knowing that also meant having to say goodbye to St Faith’s in Lincoln.  As it would turn out, joint Zoom Eucharistic services during lockdown meant both churches met each other online and where, on Easter Sunday,  Julie prepared an Easter candle ready for the re-opening of each church.  

“I just knew” said Julie, “it was God calling me to take the role, so I did.” The person specification felt like it had been written for her and she loved the fact they wanted someone with a sense of humour.  Julie filled in the application form and went for an ‘official’ visit to see the church, met the PCC over tea and cake, with a formal interview with Bishop and churchwardens a few days later; and in the space of less than a month she had a new parish to look after. “It all happened so fast, I had to get my head around the fact that in the New Year (2020) I would be moving to Scunthorpe.  She continued: “I had a new relationship with someone who lives near Exeter so the new location wasn’t ideal, but when he came with me to see the church he said that it was a “no brainer”: he could see me ministering there, even though I was still struggling to compute it all!”

Julie’s move to Scunthorpe was delayed due to the pandemic, and she didn’t move into her house until June. She spent the first four nights in Scunthorpe sleeping in her campervan on the drive to allow a full 72 hours from the removal men packing up her ‘stuff’ to reduce the risk of Covid-19. But even without a working kitchen she didn’t go hungry as colleagues from the church brought a flan, and maybe more importantly, some beer, to see her through. “Everybody has been wonderful” Julie said, “they have looked after me so well and just turned up with food on my first night and have made me feel so welcome: a challenge as restrictions were still very tight, so cards and presents appeared on the doorstep and by post.”

Julie is already on the job landscaping the large vicarage garden to make spaces she can use in her ministry.  “In one area of the garden I want to create a wildlife garden so I can engage with the local schools and Brownie groups who can come and install some bee and bug hotels. My garden already attracts wildlife as I have been blessed with visits from a small deer that comes to eat the wildflowers and I have also seen a young fox that likes to sunbathe on my plot too. I also want an area of lawn so I can host church picnics and other activities.”

Since being licensed on Monday 29th June Julie has been busy getting to know the parish and its people, local schools, funeral directors and other faith groups. “I am already in contact with the All Churches Ministers Group and there are a lot of exciting new initiatives coming out so I am particularly looking forward to exploring those and getting to know all the other faith leaders in the area. I grew up in Birmingham and also lived in Slough which are very multi-cultural so I am looking forward to bringing my experiences to positive effect here in Scunthorpe” she explained.  Julie has played the French horn for many years and is resuming her Air Training Corps chaplaincy with the 119 Air cadets which has a band with a Corp of Drums and they are looking forward to Julie joining them.   

As she gets to know people in a socially distanced way Julie has had a need to utilise a new piece of parish equipment – a folding stool - so she can comfortably sit and chat on paths and driveways when she goes to see people. “I have asthma so it is essential for me to be really strict with the social distancing measures so I hope to visit as many people as I can while the weather is good!”

Like many churches St George’s is looking forward to getting into a new rhythm with services. “We do socially distanced services in church as well as streaming via Zoom and we want to move to alternating between online and in church so we can fit baptisms and funerals with the cleaning schedule” said Julie. She continued, “Like lots of clergy and congregants, people at St George’s have battled a bit with technology, myself included, but we are resolving these problems as we go along.  Not everyone has access to IT so we are looking at produce hard copies of materials for this group so everyone is included.”

As they look to shaping the future of their church Julie is currently encouraging everyone – the PCC and congregants alike - to look at St George’s in terms of the ‘7 Marks of a Healthy Church’* and they focus on a different element each week. This includes, among others, looking at whether the worshippers are ‘Energized by faith’ or just ‘keeping things going or trying to survive’ and does the church have an ‘outward-looking focus’ with a ‘whole-life’ rather than a ‘church-life’ concern? Everyone is being asked to score the church and at the end of the seven weeks Julie will look at the responses. 

Julie said: “It’s a very interesting process and at the October PCC we will look at the responses and then take that to the next level. The tool gives a focus to what you want your church to look like and what direction to take. Everyone works as a team at St George’s which is wonderful and the PCC shows great leadership so I hope everyone will find this a positive process. Many at the church take a forward-looking view to change so I hope this will be a really exciting journey for all of us.” 

*From the Healthy Churches Handbook by Robert Warren