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Institution and Induction of a new Vicar at Hampstead Parish Church

Hampstead Parish Church has a new vicar: The Revd Jeremy Fletcher, previously Vicar of Beverley Minster. I was delighted to join a large and diverse congregation (including representatives of the local community and other local churches) for his service of Institution and Induction on 16th March.

As a Non-Conformist, I had never before witnessed such a ceremony and found it quite fascinating. As the title suggests, the ceremony comprised two distinct parts: the Induction, during which the Bishop of Edmonton, The Right Revd Robert Wickham, gave the new Vicar the 'cure of souls', then the Induction, during which the Archdeacon of Hampstead (The Ven. John Hawkins), mandated by the Bishop, inducted the Vicar 'into the real and actual possession' of the church 'with all the rights and responsibilities belonging to it'.

The service commenced with a fulsome greeting from the Bishop, liberally peppered with applause from the congregation. The Church Wardens then presented the new Vicar to the Bishop for The Affirmation, during  which the incoming Vicar gave assurance that he accepted his responsibilities towards those to whom he was sent and the people promised to encourage and support him.

There followed various declarations and oaths, including The Oath of Allegiance and The Oath of Canonical Obedience, a Collect (set prayer) and readings from the Old and New Testaments (The Liturgy of the Word). Those of you familiar with Church of England services will be aware that the congregation is required to stand during the Gospel reading: fortunately this one, the story of Lazarus, from Luke 15, was not too long!

The Bishop then preached a sermon which addressed the particular challenges to ministry in Hampstead, with specific reference to social issues such as inflated property prices, inequality of wealth, long working hours for many, and loneliness (Hampstead having an unusually high proportion of single occupancy households).

The short ceremony of Institution then commenced. A legal document conferring the 'cure of souls', was read by the Bishop and delivered to the incoming Vicar. The ceremony concluded with prayer and blessing.

Then followed the Induction, which I found the most fascinating section of the service. The Bishop delivered the mandate of Induction to the Archdeacon who then took the Vicar’s hand and marched him all the way down the aisle to the West Door (in his speech at the reception afterwards, Jeremy Fletcher said this bit reminded him somewhat of his wedding!).

Once at the door, the Archdeacon placed the Vicar’s hand on the door handle, handed him the keys to the church building and inducted him into possession of the Church.

As if this was not dramatic enough, the Archdeacon and Vicar then ascended some stairs at the back of the church to toll the church bell (both were sadly out of sight for this bit so I cannot say whether any actual rope pulling was involved or just button pressing!). The Vicar and The Archdeacon  then returned and marched back up the aisle (still hand in hand) to the front, where the Vicar was placed in his stall (which, admittedly makes him sound a bit like a horse: it was, nonetheless, quite moving). After leading the people in prayers of intercession, the new incumbent was greeted by the church wardens, welcomed by all, with more applause, and introduced to representatives of the local community (including the MP) and local churches.

We were then brought firmly down to earth as the new Vicar announced the times of services for the following Sunday and delivered another notices.

The service concluded with Holy Communion which, as the number of communicants was so large, was delivered not only at the High Altar, but also at two additional stations.

As I had expected, the service included a wide variety of excellent music, with contributions from the adult and junior church choirs and the choir of Hampstead Parochial School, as well as lusty congregational singing of favourite hymns.

The whole evening was rounded off with a Reception at University College School, which included less formal speeches and featured a splendid cake!

Theresa Thom