A special service will be held at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton on Saturday 8th June to celebrate Canon Peter Garlick’s 60 years of ministry. We recently caught up with Peter to ask him about this incredible achievement.
60 years of ministry is an amazing achievement, Peter. How do you feel having reached this milestone?
I feel thankful that I have been called to be a priest, for my life of 85 years, my marriage to Chris for 57 years, and for our two daughters and two sons. And also grateful to all those living and departed who have enriched my life.
Is it nice to be acknowledged in this way?
In the same way one marks wedding anniversaries and other significant times in life, it is a reminder of the Lord’s provision on my life (“who has called me from my mother’s womb”). It’s also a time when I remember those with whom I have ministered and those to whom I have ministered.
How have things changed since you started preaching in 1959?
Nothing stands still in this world. Change and God’s creativity go hand-in-hand. As Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often”. So there’s plenty of changing to be done!!!!
Significant changes have been secularisation, the loss of ‘folk religion’ and the state taking over much that the Church provided in the past in the social setting. The terms and conditions of ordained ministry and provision for retirement and housing have also changed. Also, the priest now is not seen as being above others, but rather among others (the example of Christ himself).
What are the most impactful moments from your 60 years of ministry?
- A choir scholarship to All Saints’ Choir School in Clifton, where I learned the foundation of a priest’s life through the Daily Office, the practice of silent prayer, intercession, retreat and pastoral ministry.
- My training at King’s College London and St Boniface College, Warminster.
- Two spells living in Lancashire where I learned the meaning of ‘a spade being a spade’!
- 14 years out of 15 in Duston living with depression.
- Two years of analysis with Wendy Robinson, who helped me face the person I am and know that God loves me as I am (and that I have some gifts).
- The ordination of women to the threefold ministry of the Church.
- Retirement at 60, freedom from responsibility, but a new chapter as a spiritual director to people.
Are there any funny stories from your time in the pulpit?
As a National Service Education Sergeant in Germany, being told by the Colonel to take a Sunday parade Service as the chaplain was ill. He said, “I believe you wish to go into the Church!” A Bible, The Book of Common Prayer and shaky knees were the preparation for preaching that day! I also had five years in the parish of Swindon with Canon Cratchley. His words to me before ordination were “Laugh and pray – and don’t throw that collar away!”
What are your hopes for the future? Do you aim to carry on preaching?
I am hoping to be able to preside at the Eucharist as long as possible, and to be useful when asked. For the wider Church, there must be more listening to the Holy Spirit, who speaks not just through the Church, but often in challenging the Church and its message. As Lao Tzu (the Chinese philosopher) said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”.
The service to celebrate Canon Peter Garlick’s 60 years of ministry will be held at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton (NN1 4RY) on Saturday 8th June at 1.00pm.