For the love of Evensong, outreach and egg sandwiches
Tony Hocking is a familiar, well-loved face around St Piran’s Church, Perranzabuloe. From church warden duties to leading Evensong, Christmas tree festival organiser to newsletter editor, intercessor to egg sandwich maker supremo. There really is very little that Tony doesn’t turn his hand to.
The biggest organisational feat that Tony undertakes with his wife, Katy, is the Cross of St Piran Award ceremony. When people are being honoured for their extraordinary contributions to church and community life, it is quite an undertaking to ensure the ceremonies run smoothly. “It’s a lot of planning and work, none of which would be possible without our fantastic team,” says Tony. “But it’s a wonderful event that brings the whole church community together.”
“It’s a wonderful event that brings the whole church community together.”
It didn’t always run so smoothly. Tony remembers the first ceremony when there was just one service, twenty nominees and a multitude of friends and families. “The church was rammed! The choir ended up sitting on the floor, with people standing wherever they could find a space!”
The discomfort of receiving rather than giving
The logistics, planning and catering require a huge amount of head and heart space, but this year should be a little different. Tony is being recognised for his contribution, not just to the award ceremonies but for his enthusiasm for outreach work. “It will be strange to sit rather than serve!”
Tony came up with the idea of Christmas Tree festivals and inviting the local schools to create their own junior carol services in the church. “It’s vital to bring new people in, especially children, to keep the church alive. And for the church to be open, welcoming and accepting.”
When asked why he works so hard for the church Tony says, “I love it. I want to be here, to do what I can, for God. I love being in His presence and feel it especially during Evensong. It’s a beautiful service.”
“I want to be here, to do what I can, for God. I love being in His presence and feel it especially during Evensong. It’s a beautiful service.”
Marriage prep, gardening and community
Another part of Tony’s outreach is organising the marriage preparation day for 16 of the 26 couples who are getting married this year. With Katy and the team, they are setting up a café style setting in St Michael’s Church and serving morning refreshments and lunch – although there won’t be any egg sandwiches. Tony is baking individual cottage pies for the couples. It’s all part of blessing the community, making the church an accessible place and welcoming to couples beyond their big day.
A gardening group has recently started, helping to maintain the large graveyard at St Piran’s. “Again, it’s bringing in people from outside of the church, some of whom wouldn’t have come anywhere near us before. They really enjoy the sense of community, working together and creating something. The effect has been dramatic in a very short time,” says Tony. They’ve had comments on Facebook from across the world about what a great job is being done. Tony manages the Facebook page for the collection of churches within the Atlantic Cluster, as well as the website – yet another way of reaching out into the community.
People jokingly say that there is very little that Tony doesn’t do – apart from wear a dog collar and deliver a sermon. But what is so refreshing on meeting Tony, is that he does so with kindness, gentle humour and humility. It will be a hard job to stop him pitching in to help at his own award ceremony.