A FAREWELL service took place at All Saints Church in Milford to mark the departure of longstanding vicar the Rev. Dominic Furness and parish family worker Sheila Hopkins.
Hymns, readings and poetry were chosen by Dominic and Sheila, and at the end of the service the pair were presented with leaving gifts and mementos.
Dominic said: “I chose to talk about a story from Matthew 14 in which Peter walks on the water – the message was step out of the boat, take the risk, finish the journey and have courage to get as close as you can to Jesus.”
Dominic, supported by his wife Alyson, has been vicar of All Saints for the last 14 years. The couple, who have two grown up sons David and Ben, are now set to retire to the Salisbury area.
He said: “What I will miss most is the wonderful people – our farewell service was very powerful and overwhelming. It is a wonderful thing to feel so loved and appreciated. ”
After undertaking his clerical training in Cambridge, Dominic worked at churches in Bristol and Guildford before becoming vicar of All Saints.
“Milford is a wonderful community with a thriving church,” he said. “There are some really wonderful events – I always love the Arts and Music Festival church service on the village green, when the whole congregation and others are outside worshipping and proclaiming their love to God.”
Other highlights have included the annual crib service and Easter celebrations, Keyhaven Songs of Praise, and a regular multi-denominational service at the community centre.
Dominic said: “I will remember so many people – that is really my strongest memory; the people of Milford.
“It has been a privilege for me to walk with people on their journey and share the significant moments in so many lives. I have been there for grandparents’ funerals, weddings and christenings.”
“It has been a wonderful job just being there for the community – being there in times of celebration as well as sorrow.”
Other enduring memories of Dominic’s time in Milford will include the fog horn sounding and undertaking baptisms in the sea.
Sheila is also departing in August after seven years in the post. Her broad-ranging role has included running toddler groups, organising holiday crafting events for children and working closely with Milford Primary School to deliver church services, run clubs and offer a prayer space.
She is now set to move to Yeovil to join her husband David, who has been living and working there for the last three-and-a-half years as a paediatric dietitian.
She said: “I don’t know what I will do next – I don’t have a job lined up yet – but I feel sure that God has a plan for me and he will show me what it is soon.
“I have known many of the children at the school since they were babies and it has been wonderful to watch them grow up into these wonderful children. A lot of the them think I actually live in the church!”
Dominic added: “I don’t think I have ever come across such a creative partnership between the school and the church as we have in Milford. The link has always been a very important part of what we are about.”
Following Dominic’s retirement at the end of July, the vicarage will be rented out whilst the Parochial Church Council draws up a job specification and parish profile for Milford.
The appointment of a new vicar is then expected to take between six months and a year, with a network of retired clergy and volunteers undertaking church services and events in the interim.
Dominic said: “As far as the parishioners are concerned it will be very much business as usual. We have a great team of committed people who are ready to take over and make sure the work of the church goes on.
“We have drawn up a list of the events that need covering and people have already volunteered for the Christmas and Easter services.”