Sue Grimes made her 1st vow of consecrated celibacy on July 4th in her parish church of St John the Evangelist, South Bank, Middlesbrough in a service conducted by the Rt. Revd. Martin Warner. The liturgy of consecration was incorporated into the church’s regular Wednesday morning Eucharist. Sue was supported by her parish priest, Fr. Terry Leathley, and a good number of friends in addition to the regular congregation. The gospel for the day was Matthew 8: 28 – 34 – the healing of 2 demon-possessed men. I wondered how the Bishop would relate this to Sue’s consecration!! Bishop Martin spoke of the “madness” of our noisy, consumerist society in which so many people’s lives are out of control and they are not free to be their true selves. He went on to say that Sue was being drawn to a life governed by a different set of values: a life of alignment to God in prayer and service. In that union with our Lord she becomes free to be her true self. Sue has chosen a life of chastity and simplicity – a lifestyle which is the vocation of all Christians, but which Sue is called to live in a more intense way. As such, this way of life is both a witness and a challenge to the church and to the world.
Here is Sue’s personal account of her story:
It was August 2001 when I first felt the call to the celibate life but I did not know what I could do about it. I was in a church which was seriously anti women's ministry and when I almost pleaded with the priest that there must be some way I could be more committed to God, I was told there was nothing unless I was to become a nun. Since I did not feel called to that at all I felt quite dismayed. I made private vows to God in Truro Cathedral when I was on holiday in Cornwall but I felt I needed to do it in a more "official" sort of way.
Then in 2010 I was fiddling about with my mobile phone and found the website of SCL. It was so incredible, I could not believe it. Here was a way!
I attended the get together of SCL at Offa House in 2011 and it was just wonderful to share in the fellowship of like-minded people. I was able to share my experiences with others and felt so much better knowing that I had their support. I also made enquiries with the Tertiary Order of the Holy Paraclete. So then I was working towards taking my first vow of celibacy but did not have the support of my priest. To move forward I needed to move parish.
I was made very welcome at St. John's, it made it all so easy. One of the church wardens introduced me to Father Terry who I had seen at church events. He was very kind. I told him I had defected and would he take me in, he smiled and said it depended on how I behaved that morning! Afterwards he came over to me and said I was very welcome. After Mass I explained about SCL and the Tertiary Order and he said he believed these things should be encouraged. I could not believe it. A week later I was asked if I would like to join the choir. I became involved in the Mother's Union and In May started helping out at the church group for 5 to 8 year olds.
In April I had a meeting with my Bishop, the Bishop of Whitby, Martin Warner and it was a very positive meeting. He was happy to support me in the taking of my first vow and was interested in the Tertiary Order, which by this time I had taken my Postulant vows and had the go ahead to take my Novice vows. From the end of May things happened very quickly. I took my Novice Vows at the Tertiary Order conference at Whitby. Then I was made a member of the Mother's Union in my church's special Centenary Service. It was here that the Bishop gave me two weeks’ notice that he would be coming to hear and receive my first vow to the Single Consecrated Life. By this time he had been appointed as the next Bishop of Chichester was leaving us in August.
This Vow service was slotted in to our normal Wednesday morning service. We always have a coffee morning after the service so even that side of things was taken care of.
I cannot tell you how I felt on that great and glorious day. There were some nerves which I think is understandable but I felt like I was walking on air.
I did not expect to get cards and gifts, I felt really spoiled. Sue came up from Essex to support me. I will never forget the great joy when the Bishop blessed my ring and gave it to me. oh, wow! Isn't God brilliant! He made all this possible!
Sue writes: There were some nerves in the run up to the taking of my Life Vow. This surprised me but all of those I had spoken to who had taken Life Vows assured me that this was natural and that taking a Life Vow feels very different from taking the First Vow.
The service was taken by my vicar Father Terry Leathley and the Bishop of Whitby, Paul Ferguson.
Mary Vickerage came to present me to Bishop Paul and the service took place on 29 April the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena at my church St. John the Evangelist, South Bank, Middlesbrough and was attended by several members of the congregation of my church, friends, family members and some of my fellow tertiaries from the Order of the Holy Paraclete.
Bishop Paul spoke about St. Catherine's life and witness and being a light of Christ to shine for others to see. He stood by the Easter candle and talked about us being an Easter people and reminding us about the importance of the crucifixion but also of the glorious resurrection.
Bishop Paul spoke about the Single Consecrated Life and of the commitment that I was making that morning and how we as witnesses take forward the good news of Easter and reflect it in our lives.
There were refreshments afterwards in the church hall and then after we had taken some photos, Mary and I went to Redcar for lunch and sat and looked out to sea though the weather was cold and breezy and we talked about Jesus cooking fish for the disciples on the beach all those years ago. We marvelled at God's goodness as we reflected on our own journeys of faith.
All in all an absolutely wonderful and awesome day.