'A spark to a flame' - How this Suffolk priest is helping her community
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
For Reverend Jane Held, the work of the church doesn't simply take place indoors on a Sunday, but is out there in the community.
The assistant curate, in the Blythe Valley team ministry, has helped set up and look after a number of projects to help people in the Halesworth area, particularly in the past year.
For her, this work is at the very core of what churches should do.
“It’s not all about what you do inside a church on Sunday," said Revd. Held.
“It’s the way in which we live our lives within our communities.”
Coronavirus has changed the way the clergy has had to work.
“We are providing a range of things through church; we’ve got online and streamed worship,” said Revd. Held.
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“We send letters out to everybody and have phone trees too.”
The church also works closely with the Halesworth Volunteer Centre to reach the wider community.
“A lot of our parishioners are volunteers at the centre,” said Rev Held.
“Part of the role I have at the moment is as part of the Covid-19 coordination hub in Halesworth.”
Rev Held is on the board that helps to co-ordinate much of the work that is going on in the area to support people during the pandemic.
From helping to reduce isolation to helping people to get their shopping and prescriptions, the volunteers co-ordinated by Rev Held and the team at the volunteer centre do everything they can to help people in their communities.
“We also support the gift project, we take out little gifts to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see people or do things,” she said.
The gifts have previously included wildflower seeds for Mothering Sunday and cream teas.
She also does a lot of work with the Community Larder in Halesworth.
“It came out of the first lockdown when the food boxes that were sent by the Government to people who were shielding were clearly somewhat inadequate,” she said.
Now the larder is open for anyone to use and provides nutritious and balanced food.
“Anyone can come along, they’ll get a chat even if they don’t want anything else,” she said.
“You can bring along goods or food that you want to donate, things that you have got at the back of your cupboard.”
With all the different projects on the go an it’s a tough balancing act for the reverend - who is also studying at university - but one that she is not unfamiliar with.
“I used to be a director of social services years ago so I’m used to being busy and juggling things,” she said.
“It’s just a case of being where you need to be when you need to be. I often kind of set something off going and then everyone just runs with it.
“I feel like I am more of a spark to a flame.”
Seeing people benefitting from her work keeps Rev Held going.
“It’s seeing people who have been pretty hopeless getting pretty engaged in something," she said.
“It’s being with people who have so much to give but don’t believe they have and giving them that sense of worth.
“That’s what I feel I am meant to be doing I’m not meant to be sitting inside a stone building reading serious prayers, which is important, but that is only part of what being a priest is.”
The idea of what it means to be a priest has changed, she says, giving her more chance to be in the community.
Rev Held said she was also meeting with lots of families because of bereavements.
“It’s been very tragic and sad in the past year,” she said.
“But because it has been very tragic and sad it’s a different way of interacting, you have to follow up and be present for people.”
And rather than an obstacle, she says coronavirus was an opening for the church to change.
“It’s an opportunity for public service in a way that was incredibly needed at a time when no-one else could do it,” said Revd. Held.
“We’ve got lots of ideas and ways we can do things differently while maintaining traditional Church of England rural worship, which is incredibly important."