Parish Priest – The Rev’d Vernon Cuthbert 5 Sunderland Road, Cleadon, Sunderland, SR6 7UR

0191 536 7147

06 May 2020

On Monday 4th May I was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Cleadon All Saints and Whitburn by the Bishop of Jarrow. The Churchwardens of Whitburn Parish Church have invited me to introduce myself to you. I am Vernon Cuthbert, husband, father and Priest in the Church of England.

On the telephone the other day I was asked where I am from as I don’t speak with a local accent. This is a difficult question to answer. The short response is that I was born in Kent, spent my youth in Cheshire, most of my adult life in Nottinghamshire with short periods in Leeds and Bristol and I came to the North-east from Derby. I’ve an interest in family history and have links to Scottish plantsmen via nurseries on the Middlesex/Hertfordshire borders; Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire farmers; Manx Clergy via Vintners in Middlesex and South Wales miners who escaped the valleys and rest in Whitley Bay cemetery. You can see why ‘where I am from’ gives a complicated answer. Before training for ordained ministry I worked as an accountant in industry.

Janet is my wife and we have three adult children. The eldest, Helen is just finishing as a degree apprenticeship co-ordinator with Salford University, looking for new employment back in Sheffield (where she studied at University). The Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted her plans significantly. The middle child, Matthew, is halfway through studying for a PhD with the Football Association at Salford University. The youngest, Niamh, is awaiting the award of a first degree from Lancaster University.

Although I have now lived in Cleadon Vicarage for longer than any other house, I see the role of Priest in Charge to Whitburn and Cleadon as a new ministry (thankfully without the need for packing boxes). Although I have experience as Priest-in-Charge of Cleadon and Locality Priest for Whitburn, Cleadon and the Boldons, the role I was appointed to almost 12 years ago, this experience will guide what needs to happen now, rather than determine it. We are on a journey together. There will be times when we get things wrong, but also there will be times when we recognise the working of God and manage to join in with Him.

The pandemic will create difficulties in me getting to know you, and in you getting to know me. It also meant the licensing was attended only by those who needed to be there, electronically via video conferencing. At an appropriate time, when we are able to gather together, we need to recognise and give thanks for the ministry of the Reverend Ian Davies amongst you. As an Interim Priest he has helped lead you in the latter years of the vacancy. We are fortunate that he will still be amongst us and, as one of the baptised, still has a ministry to perform, albeit the nature of it will be differently shaped as we move forward.

One of the difficulties we have is that it is hard to see quite how this moving forward will be during this uncertain time. We are unable to gather for worship and faith is concentrated on the home for the time being. God is still with us though and we connect with Him and the wider church as we pray.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.  Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)