Rector looks back on his time in Winslow, as congregation prepares to say goodbye

Rev Andrew Lightbown will conduct his last service at St Laurence Church, Winslow, this Sunday

By Hannah Richardson
Monday, 24th January 2022, 3:54 pm

Leaving the Winslow Benefice is turning out to be a bittersweet experience for the town's rector.

Rev Andrew Lightbown will conduct his last service at St Laurence Church on Sunday, January 30.

Rev Lightbown, aged 55, said: "I have loved being the rector and we have made so many friends over the last six years.

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Rev Andrew Lightbown

"One of the greatest pleasures in Church of England ministry is meeting people you would very probably never otherwise encounter."

During his time in Winslow, Rev Lightbown said his mission has been to put the church at the heart of community, to work with others to challenge unfairness - as in the campaign to try and prevent or delay the closure of the TSB bank branch - and "to tend to those for whom life is unbearably hard".

"I have been so proud of our community initiatives, the St Laurence Food Cupboard and the St Laurence Shop for instance, and delighted by the level of support and encouragement these have received," he said.

But the last two years of his ministry have, of course, been overshadowed by the pandemic.

Rev Lightbown conducts an outdoor church service in May 2021

"Covid has been both a highlight and a lowlight," he said.

"It's been a highlight in the sense that in some ways we've seen amazing church growth during Covid, in terms of the number of things we're involved with in our offering to people.

"The Food Cupboard and the St Laurence Shop are both fruits of Covid, and so is the ability to do things online.

"But my absolute lowlights would be some of the Covid funerals - doing funerals with just six people in a crematorium.

Outdoor Church

"I often say to people, the standout memory of Covid for me would be the busy crematorium but the empty crematorium car park - that was just heartbreaking.

"Funerals with massively restricted numbers, of down to six people, were beyond awful, to be honest.

"And just hearing some of the human stories of suffering, which is part of my job, that's what we do, but it does take a toll."

One "massive highlight" of his time in Winslow, Rev Lightbown said, was the St Laurence Church Choir singing in 2019 in Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford when St Laurence curate Rev Mark Nelson was ordained deacon.

Rev Andrew Lightbown reads from the Bible

"And seeing the church in former times for carol services and midnight masses, filled to overflowing, things like that would be absolute highlights.

"Easter Day 2018 was a highlight, when I arrived at church for a 9.30am service literally to see queues trying to get in.

"That was an absolute highlight. - it was extraordinary."

Rev Lightbown, will be taking up a senior position as Canon Residentiary at St Woolos Cathedral in Newport.

"I am looking forward to it. It's going to be hugely different, which is part of the excitement - different country, its a cathedral not a parish church, it's in area of acute poverty - the city of Newport is desperately poor.

"Those are all things that really excite me, to be honest."

Rev Lightbown will be licensed and installed in his new role on March 6 at 4pm and the service is set to be livestreamed.