This week we are getting to know another member of the congregation at St Mary’s. Tony Warren has been one of our members for some years now, and is one of the most knowledgeable people on St Mary’s and Billingshurst as a whole that I have had the privilege of getting to know.
1. How did you come to worship at St Mary’s?
Rosemary and I were churchgoers before moving to Ingfield Manor School from London with our infant son. We found the parish church — St Mary’s , of course — and before we had a car used to walk down the A29 to church pushing the buggy. Sometimes we were spotted and given a lift by a fellow worshipper, the supposedly formidable then head of the Infant School!
2. What roles do you have both here at St Mary’s, and also for the Diocese?
A lot of former roles Ill ignore as belonging to the distant past — we’ve been here since 1977! — but early participation in youth work based at the Old School involved rushing around in wide games on the slopes of the Bowling Alley, now quite overgrown. I returned to helping in youth work some years ago, being stopped by its pandemic closure. When possible, I enjoy singing in the Choir. Since 1999, I’ve been a (lay) Reader, that’s a trained role — nationally recognised and needing our Bishop’s permission – that allows me to preach and teach in St Mary’s and beyond. I sometimes lead Choral Evensong or other services, from time to time lead funeral services (over 90) in crematoria or in St Mary’s, and occasionally our pre-pandemic services in Longfield Manor or Osmund Court. For many years, I’ve welcomed the opportunity once a month as Day Chaplain to talk and pray with people in our cathedral, something I hope will soon restart post pandemic.
3. What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy table tennis, usually playing three sessions a week pre-pandemic. I like putting computers to use, and converted from Windows to Linux some years ago, spurred on by the thought that if the (even more elderly) Organist at the time was comfortable with it, then so could I be! My love of reading extends from biblical commentary to crime thrillers – and there are many of the latter on TV and players!
4. Do you have a bible verse / passage that you have found useful during this time of uncertainty, and why?
Not particularly for the pandemic, but perhaps John 3.16 sums up for me the good news that God offers to me and all people the hand of his friendship: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. The anthem by John Stainer based on this verse was a favourite of the choir of the church I joined when I first put my trust in Jesus – the sound of it will stay with me for ever.
5. Throughout your career what has been your favourite job?
I suppose leading a Christian missionary home and guest house 24/7 had its moments but the most satisfying was the task I was given to develop spreadsheets and Visual Basic routines to gather budgeting and forecasting information from the several hundred cost centres of a large charity and then feed it to the analytical database software I helped the consultant to install and tailor to our needs.
6. If you were asked to explain what the Church is to an alien in one paragraph what might you say?
A gathering of people through all the ages of time and beyond time united in Jesus Christ, one of us but also in the Spirit, one with the creator of everything, including the alien and all that it knows. Do you think it would understand?
7. And lastly, if you could have one superpower what would it be?
Although I’m not over pleased with my being or achievements, I certainly don’t want to have a superpower!