FEATURE: Busy retirement in prospect for minister

Soon 'sitting down': Rev Jenny Park
Soon 'sitting down': Rev Jenny Park
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THE term used in Methodism when ministers want to retire is ‘sitting down’, but there won’t be much of that going on when the Rev Jenny Park leaves this summer.

Jenny has had a busy life, and there are no signs that is going to change any time soon. The Superintendent of the combined South Holland Methodist Circuit is already planning to complete her not-for-publication life story, called Circles of my Life because of the way in which things that happen to her seem to link to events from her past.

While she claims to be planning to give herself the rest of the year off after retiring in the summer, Jenny says she is returning to the Rotheram area, where the family grew up and in the circuit where she became a minister, so there is the expectation that she will be involved in some ministry.

However, Jenny is particularly looking forward to spending time with her family, husband Richard as well as her son Jonathan and daughter Susan and three grandsons.

Jenny has been a local preacher with the Methodist Church since she was 19 or even younger, and says she felt the call, but had to wait until the time was right to become a minister: at that time, only men were permitted to hold that role. Instead, she did various jobs and taught for six years before she could train for the ministry.

Jenny has spent the past 24 years in ministry for the Methodist Church, the past 14 of them in South Holland where she was responsible for St Thomas’s Road and Broad Street Methodist Churches in Spalding, and for Bicker as minister in pastoral charge. She also shared responsibility for Gosberton, Gosberton Clough and Gosberton Risegate churches with the Rev Maurice Perry. Pat Gooding has helped as pastoral visitor for the Spalding churches, and Jenny has had administrative help.

In one of those circles that Jenny writes about, when she and Richard moved to Lincolnshire they already knew the area. Jenny had spent time with her parents at a holiday caravan at Surfleet Seas End while growing up, and after becoming a minister Jenny and Richard would take an occasional holiday there. It was a place they had come to love and somewhere they felt at home.

Jenny says: “I really believed this was the area I had to work in. I believe God leads us to where we need to be. It will be a wrench to go because to me Lincolnshire is home.

“I have been blessed with good colleagues and wonderful support in the churches I have served in. I couldn’t have done any of this without a wonderful husband who has given me tremendous support and encouragement.”

Among her achievements during her time in South Holland Jenny counts the successful combination of the Holbeach and Spalding circuits. Her greatest joys are having had two candidates for ministry. One, Nick Collinson, is now a minister in the Norwich area, and Eleanor Smith is shortly to start pre-ordination training.

“That has been a great joy,” said Jenny, “that and encouraging people in terms of local preaching because you have to be a local preacher before you can be a minister.”

She says she has also tried to challenge each congregation to reach its full potential, despite the difficulties of age and falling numbers in congregations. Finally, she has worked with other denominations, and is currently chair of Spalding and District Churches Together.

Above all, Jenny feels her ministry has been a pastoral one, and says: “I really enjoy meeting people and feel it’s a privilege to meet them when they are dealing with the kind of losses families face, although I enjoy all aspects of the work.”

Jenny is to be replaced by the Rev Margaret Mwailu as minister and the Rev Alan Barker will become Superintendent Minister for the area.