UP CLOSE IN MALDON: "Life isn't all about progress. It's about being human and what that means."

  Posted: 13.02.21 at 09:00 by The Editor

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Maldon Nub News has been bringing you our new series of Up Close in Maldon every Saturday, talking to key people in the town and surrounding villages from many different walks of life.

Today we feature an interview with the Reverend Anne Sardeson, Minister of the three United Reformed Church communities in Maldon, Burnham-on-Crouch and Southminster.

There is perhaps never an easy time to take on a new challenge, to up sticks from familiar territory, take you and your family off to somewhere completely new and then to find a way to serve a community comprising a spread of everything from larger towns to tiny villages across a substantial rural district.

However, for United Reformed Church (URC) Minister, the Reverend Anne Sarderson, that time came in the midst of the pandemic.

In mid August 2020, Anne moved from east London, where she has been a minister to communities for 24 years and moved with her partner, Lesley, and 24-year-old daughter to take up her new role as minister for not just the large community at Maldon URC, but also for Southminster URC and Burnham-on-Crouch URC, too. It was also the first time that the three churches had joined together as one ministry, known in the URC as a ‘pastorate’.

On Saturday, 5 September, after just a few weeks of settling into The Manse in Burnham, Anne was formally welcomed at a special online service at Maldon URC, on Market Hill.

“Perhaps one of the most surprising things was how quickly we felt part of the community,” Anne says, “and I don’t mean that I expected not to feel part, but what I found was that people were so friendly, so welcoming and, despite the fact that I couldn’t go out to events and mingle with people to get to know them as I usually would, right from the start people would take the time to talk to me.

“I realised quite quickly that it was a different way of life – and slower is the wrong word, it is much more that it is a gentler way of life, where people have time for others.”

There were benefits that came with the pandemic way of life, too. While the downsides of 2020 and its impact on people’s lives, from fear to loss, from finances to loneliness and stress, the new circumstances meant that for the first time the three congregations have got to know each other in online services and meetings. Anne tells of how she has felt a great and growing sense of community, herself feeling the support of others when she suffered a double bereavement in the loss of her mother and her best friend before Christmas.

“One thing I have learnt from the past year is that you don’t know your own strength until it’s tested.

“I don’t think we can just return to life as it was before the pandemic,” Anne says, “there has been trauma for so many people in many different ways and we have to take the time to acknowledge that – we have to listen.

“I have an interest in history and I have read about how, after World War Two, many men returning from war felt alienated by churches which didn’t know how to react. In my past ministry I have had conversations with people as well about how they did not feel the church responded well to the huge changes that the war brought. To a great extent the church tried to carry on as before, as though nothing had really happened and nothing had changed.

“We have to learn from that. There’s got to be an awareness of how very fragile many people are going to be. There’s been a huge trauma and people will need to feel safe.

“From my own theological perspective, I have thought about how we often see life as a matter of progress, but life isn’t all about progress. It’s about being human and what that means.

“Whatever happens next, we will need to listen to people and hear what they need. We need to be there for people and I think churches will have a huge role to play.”

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