July/August 2017 letter to the Parish …


… from our new Curate; The Reverend Penny Thomson

Five years ago, I was sitting very happily in a Compassion Concert listening to Tony Campolo speak about life regrets of people who had reached their nineties.  A common regret was not having been more daring in life and trying to overcome things that had held them back.  As we stood to sing the hymn: I, the Lord of Sea and Sky, I heard God’s call to get out of my comfort zone, take a risk with God, and surrender to his leading, wherever that might take me.

I have been a Christian since my early teens, finding faith in a small Free Evangelical Church in Golders Green, North London, and inspired by the faith-ful testimony of the Church Elders and the love and teaching of a handful of young men and women who led my Bible Study Group.  At school, I ran the Christian Union and studied hard, gaining a place at Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine.  At my interview, I declared that I wanted to be a missionary, but then work, marriage, babies – lots of them, came next and my dreams of missionary work were put to one side.

My husband David and I moved to Potters Bar just before our first daughter was born in 1986.  At that time, we worshipped at Christchurch, Barnet but when our second daughter was a few months old we heard that a “new” service had started at out local church: King Charles the Martyr and started attending.  Morning Worship was held in the Church Hall and was very informal.  I took up the challenge to set up the Sunday School and David and I led the music worship with good friends.  The fellowship blossomed, grew in numbers and many came to know Jesus in that time.  Eventually, the Service moved back into the Church building and was held at 11o/c after the traditional Sung Eucharist.

I continued to run the Children’s Groups for many years, ran a Women’s Bible Study Group, sang regularly in the Music Group, ran the Women’s social group.  I sat on the PCC, was a Chalice assistant and led prayers in Church.  But I never imagined myself as someone who could stand up in front of others and lead worship or talk about my faith – that would surely be too much to ask!

Yet one day, I clearly heard God say to me that I had sat in the pews for too long and it was time to give something back, to give something sacrificial to him……….and part of my searching for the “something” was to go to the Compassion Concert and listen to God speak.

Returning from the Concert, I told my Vicar that I believed that I had heard God’s call to public   ministry, so he sent me to the Vocations Advisor to explore this further.  From there, I spent the next two years in the discernment process before facing the Bishop’s Advisory Panel for a three-day interview,    followed up by an interview with Bishop Paul.  I was recommended for Ministerial training and commenced three years part-time training with the Eastern Region Ministry Course, based in Cambridge, but with my    classes held at St Albans or in an on-line classroom.

Training, learning theology, writing essays, giving my first sermon has been challenging, especially whilst working full-time as a Hospital Doctor and      supporting our children, but I have been carried by the loving prayers of my church family.

And now, as I write this I am 5 weeks away from Ordination at St Albans Abbey on the 2nd July.  I am leaving my comfort zone but very much looking forward to joining the St Etheldreda’s and St Luke’s fellowship.  I feel sadness at leaving my old friends but excited to get to know you.

I think often about journeying.  I envisage that we are all journeying together as we try to learn more about our loving Heavenly Father and try to do his will. I hope that you will welcome me into your midst, teach me and pray for me.  I hope to listen to God and to faithfully serve you, always keeping you in my prayers.  I hope and pray that the journey will be fun and that  we will all grow in God’s love and grace together.    Penny

The churches of St Etheldreda and St Luke in Hatfield are steeped in English history, but they are not museums, they are meeting places for thriving Christian communities.  The congregations range from babes in arms to grandparents and we aim to cater for all needs.

If you like a quiet traditional service, then why not come to the 8am service at St Eth’s?  The 9.30am at St Eth’s is also traditional, but is accompanied by magnificent and innovative hymns and musical pieces as directed by our Director of Music.  We also have an ’all age’ service on the third Sunday of the month where we are joined for the whole service by the children of our Sunday School. 

Those that get up later on a Sunday might prefer to attend the 11.30am service at St Luke’s, a smaller, but very welcoming and friendly congregation.

Sunday school meets in our church hall at 9.20am in term time offering a small Christian lesson for the children, followed by a creative activity.  The class then join the main congregation at St Eth’s for Holy Communion.

We are a friendly all inclusive Parish and also offer a range of study classes and social events, but most importantly a very warm Christian welcome to all.

Why not sign up to our monthly magazine, Refocused, and keep in touch with what we are doing?  Email: linda.barnard3@btinternet.com 


A virtual tour of St Etheldreda’s Church

Travel up inside our clock tower (see above photo) through the bell ringers chamber, past our carrillon above the bell ringers, and enjoy a panoramic view from the top of the tower.  From the highest point in Hatfield you will see for miles:  east, west, south and north.  Look out for the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 in the bottom right hand side of the screen which allow you to step up to and through the various levels of the tower, side swipe at any level for 360 degree views.  You can join the tour here.