S Barnabas has long been an important figure to me. As I was being confirmed in S Barnabas’ Church in the small town of Fredericksburg, Texas, on a spring day of 1984, I don’t think that I could have imagined that S Barnabas’, Tunbridge Wells, would play an important role in my future. One thing I have learned over the years, however, is that, like Barnabas himself, we are sometimes called to go to places far from where we might have expected.
With that being said, I look forward to joining you in Tunbridge Wells very soon. I have lived in the United Kingdom for almost fifteen years. I initially came over from the United States to work in a lay capacity as a Verger in a major church in the City of London. I had planned on spending a year or two, but after four years I was still working and was, by then, preparing to go forward for ordination to the priesthood. I trained for ordination at S Stephen’s House, Oxford – a theological college, founded, in part, through the efforts of Edward King (who laid the cornerstone for S Barnabas’), with a long history of training ordinands in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England.
Since I have been ordained I have served in two parishes in the Diocese of London – firstly in Burnt Oak in outer north London, and secondly in Somers Town, between S Pancras and Euston Stations. I have been privileged to work with some inspiring and faithful priests in Burnt Oak and in the Parish of Old S Pancras, the team in which I presently serve.
These parishes have both been densely populated parishes of significant economic deprivation, and, as the circumstances have dictated, I have been able to work in a wide variety of activities, ranging from toddlers to the elderly to the homeless to public advocacy organisations to the usual round of church and school activities.
I eagerly anticipate being involved with the parish of S Barnabas and with the wider community in Tunbridge Wells. S Barnabas’ is in quite a different setting from the last two parishes I have served, but it shares with them a consistent commitment to the Catholic faith in the Church of England. The example of those who have served before us is not a sepia-tinted image of the past – it is a living Faith which we have the privilege to keep and to pass on to others. There has been much media speculation in recent years about the difficulties which Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England are facing (actually, those stories have been repeated for the better part of 175 years!), but we have every reason to be excited about what the future holds for us, for we have the Good News to proclaim and the Lord’s work to do. With the prayers of the Son of Encouragement aiding our mission, we can be confident and hopeful.
Please keep me and the people of S Mary’s, Somers Town, in your prayers, as we will be praying for you. Again, I look forward to getting to know you and to sharing in the life of S Barnabas’, Tunbridge Wells.
Fr John Caster
Licensing of Fr. John Caster as Priest-in-Charge on September 4th, Tuesday, 7.30pm St Barnabas Church Tunbridge Wells