Talking with Rev.Tim Clay, Rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Ashingdon
(11th February 2011)
Rochford Life: Tim, you are rector of Ashingdon Parish church?
Tim: Yes, and of Canewdon, of Pagglesham and of South Fambridge. And I’m also Chaplain to the Chairman of the District Council.
RL: That sounds like quite a busy life?
Tim: It has its moments, let’s put it like that. If I’m honest, being Chaplain to the Chair of the Council, is one of the nice things; it’s a lovely part of the job. You get to do some very interesting things that are slightly out of the run of the mill of what a minister’s day to day stuff is like, for instance, the recent Holocaust Memorial Service.
You get to go to some nice things and you get invited to the Civic Dinner. For the most part it is doing things like the Civic Service or the Civic Carol Service and that sort of thing, organising those. Then there is going to each full Council Meeting and beginning the meeting with prayers.
RL: But four churches as well?
Tim: To be honest, that’s getting on to be average for the Church of England nowadays. What tends to happen today is that you get divided up in terms of population rather than necessarily with a particular parish, so if you have some smaller parishes like these ones are, then they all get grouped together.
In Pagglesham and South Fambridge they only get two services per month in the morning, whereas Canewdon and Ashingdon get services every Sunday morning, and I do some evening services over at Canewdon as well.
I am very fortunate that I have a good team of church wardens and church wardens are allowed to take Morning Prayer. I am also fortunate in that I have a Reader, Ken Yates, who can also take services, again Morning Prayer. I basically take Communions and then some of the other services, but I have a good team, without whom I couldn’t do it.
RL: Do you get drawn into things other than the services?
Tim: Yes, I am chair of governors at Canewdon School which is a Church of England school, and I pop in and visit various Care Homes and all that side of things and so you get pulled in various different directions. It’s part of the job; it’s fun.
RL: Can we consider some background things. How do you come to be here?
Tim: I started feeling it was something I should be doing back about 1988 or 1989. At that time I was working as a Librarian so my background before ministry was librarianship, but I’d increasingly been feeling that this was something I ought to be doing and without going into the details of the Anglican selection process, I ended up going for selection twice; they wouldn’t have me the first time.
I think with some people they really like to make sure you really mean it, and if you’re willing to wait a year or two years and put some work in to prove to the powers that be that you mean it, it gives them time to test you a bit more and see if it is a genuine vocation.
Increasingly you’re not getting people who go the traditional ‘school - A-level – university – theological college’ route. Increasingly it is people, men and women, who come in after having a career and then making that move into ministry. One of the things they do want top make sure is that it’s not the mid-life crisis thing or casting around for something nice and relaxing. But then it was theological college for two years because I was over thirty so didn’t have to go and do a degree.
Then I did my first curacy at Wickford, in the team ministry there, and then after about three and a half years I went to South Ockendon. Basically I’ve just been up and down the A127 really, until finally getting my own place here back in 2002. Back then I was Parish Priest here half time and half time Deanery Ministerial Development Officer but that was on the proviso that when the Reverend Kelly over at Canewdon either decided to retire or passed away, then I would take over Canewdon and Pagglesham. He lasted for another year before he passed away when he was, or very nearly was, ninety three. He served that Parish for the best part of fifty years, having arrived there in 1957, but that is a pattern of ministry that is becoming increasingly unusual; you are not getting people staying that sort of length of time in one place, anyway.
RL: Is it standard to retire at sixty five?
Tim: Nowadays, since the mid 1970’s, legislation came in – before then there was no retirement, you just kept going – but there was new legislation making retirement mandatory, but saying that you could retire at sixty five if you wished, but you had to retire at seventy. With the Reverend Kelly, because he was already in post before the legislation came in, and because it was not retrospective, it didn’t apply to him, but it was never envisaged that anyone would stay in place that long.
RL: By the way you have been speaking, it sounds like you are very fulfilled in what you are doing?
Tim: Oh absolutely, totally! One of the real perks of being here is that Canewdon has a connection with Westminster Abbey and I am able to work as a duty Chaplain there, one week a year. It’s a lovely break for me actually, as much as anything, but it means you get to go to Westminster Abbey and stay in the Abbey for the week and do duty chaplain’s work around the Abbey, meeting and greeting, doing prayers, taking a couple of services.
RL: How has that come about?
Tim: it’s because of this thing called patronage. You have people who are the patrons of a church and therefore have a say in who the vicar of a particular parish is, and Westminster Abbey are the patrons of Canewdon church. Reverend Kelly always used to do it and when they had a gap in their schedule they got in touch and said your predecessor used to do it, would you be interested, so I jumped at it. The timing of it varies according to their schedule but I’m due to go about mid-March and it will be nice to go in Lent because there will be a different feel to the Abbey then as well. It’s a huge privilege.
RL: Well thank you, that’s a fascinating insight into another part of the church in the area. Thank you so much for your time.