Reverend Hazel reaches an important Miall stone

Posted on July 5, 2014

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On July 11th, Reverend Hazel Miall will be ordained as a priest. This is a very special moment for Hazel personally and for all those in our parish who have supported her. We caught up with Hazel and her husband Philip over dinner, to find out more about the person behind the dog collar who is such an important part of Southgate life…

 

Hazel and her husband Philip on a well deserved holiday!

Hazel and her husband Philip on a well deserved holiday!

What brought you to Southgate?
It was Philip who brought me to Christ Church, via the cubs! It all started in 1966. It was a case of Head Boy meets Head Girl. I was Head Girl of Hornsey High School and Philip was Head Boy of the Stationers’ Company’s School. Both schools were separated by a strip of ground known as “the Wilderness” which was closely guarded. We met at a committee that had the job of planning our end of year dance. We have been together – and meeting at committees – ever since!
Philip had been involved at Christ Church long before we met. He grew up in Oakwood and was brought to the Sunday School by his neighbour, Jean Williams, whose family still attend Christ Church. Philip became involved in the local Scouts and became Troop Leader. We were married in the church in 1974 and soon after I was asked to help out leading the Cub Scouts – I celebrated my 35th year as Akela in 2009! I am delighted that so many cubs and scouts will be in church for the ordination service. My son Merlin was born while we lived in Wood Green and we moved to our current house in Conway Road in 1980 after Tim arrived.

A celebratory cake after Hazel's first service at Christ Church as a Deacon

A celebratory cake after Hazel’s first service at Christ Church as a Deacon

What was life like growing up?
My father worked very hard – he was a skilled craftsman and ran a business producing mirror frames. We still have many of them, including some of those which didn’t quite make it to the shop floor – including a number of Golden Eagles destined for a mirror made for the American Ambassador! My father died young, at the age of 53, so I was brought up by my mother. She was an accomplished seamstress and dressmaker who carried out alterations for a shop in Crouch End and later became a needlework teacher for adult education classes in Haringey. She was very much a “people” person and only stopped working when they found out her age!

When did your journey to ordination begin?
It all began ten years ago, in 2004. It was a time when I was evaluating my career and thinking carefully about what I might like to do in the future. In the same week, two people whom I hold in high regard suggested that I consider ordination. It seemed to touch something inside me. The feeling was so strong that I decided I could not ignore it. I resigned from my job, giving three months notice, during which time I planned to test out whether it was the right time to pursue training as a priest.

I spoke to Fr Peter, who has been so supportive throughout my journey. He sent me to the Vicar of St John’s Palmer’s Green, John Cullen, who used to train priests. I had a series of very intense meetings with him, where he asked me challenging and searching questions about morality, ethics and my beliefs. This was a test to see if I was ready for training. The sessions left me emotionally and physically exhausted but, (as perhaps they were intended to do), confident and resolute that I had found my calling in life.

At the same time I enrolled on a Christian Studies course. Most of the fellow students there were studying to become Lay Readers. I applied for a training place as an Ordinand and, after a series of interviews and the support of Fr Peter and the Reverend Dr Jonathan Trigg, the Director of Ordinand Training, I enrolled at St Mellitus where I embarked on another long programme of study, with the expectation that I would eventually become a Deacon rather than a Priest. I am no stranger to academic work, although it doesn’t come easily to me – despite the practice I have had! In 1997 I graduated from the Open University after five years of evening study. I worked as an Occupational Therapist in Haringey and saw that those coming in to the job had degrees (whereas I had a diploma) so I felt I should get one too!

Among the highlights of my time at St Mellitus were my two placements. My first was at St Matthew’s Westminster, with Reverend Philip Chester. When I went to visit the church with a friend from the course, we sat down to pray and noticed in the corner of our eye a man in dark clothes with a big bushy beard. Later in the service, when Reverend Philip welcomed us from the pulpit, the man turned around and we found out it was Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury! He came to speak to us after the service with his wife and was so kind.

One of Hazel's most memorable moments was officiating at the wedding of her son Tim to Kristy

One of Hazel’s most memorable moments was officiating at the wedding of her son Tim to Kristy

My second placement was at St Mary’s Primrose Hill, where I was supported by Reverend Marjorie Brown who remains a great friend. It was partly through my discussions with her and the support of the Reverend Ann Coleman, one of my tutors at St Mellitus, that I realised that my calling was to the priesthood rather than as a Deacon.

On 30th June 2012 I was ordained as a Deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a special day in more than one way as ‘Aunt Sis’ (my Godmother, but we call her Aunty) turned 96. She got a big kiss from the Bishop of London and a cheer from the whole cathedral! I acted as Deacon at Christ Church for the first time on 1st July 2012.

In January of this year, I received permission from the Bishop to go forward to the interview panel for consideration as ordination as a priest. There were three interviews, the most gruelling in Cambridge with an academic theologian. He asked me what my favourite book of the bible was and why. In an instant, my mind went blank! I could not even remember the names of any books of the bible! I managed to overcome my nerves and must have given a reasonable answer!

What are your most powerful memories since being ordained as a Deacon?
My position has enabled me to share very special moments in people’s lives. I will never forget the first wedding I officiated – for Suzanne and Matt Bryant, or the first person I baptised – Dominic Crampton; Hilary Meur’s grandson. Not many people get the chance to marry their own son! Being able to officiate at the marriage of Tim to his wife Kristy, was a very special moment.

The funerals, particularly those of young people who have died;  Joshua Foulkes and Gabriella Ngugi are also very powerful memories which I will carry forever.

In 2012, after officiating at the service of remembrance in Broomfield Park, I went with Fr Peter and Raymond Harris to New Southgate Cemetery, to pay our respects at the memorial to 51 German prisoners who died while being held in the Alexandra Palace Internment Camp in WW1, where we read from the writings of Dietrich Bonheoffer. All very powerful memories.

What does Christ Church mean to you?
Christ Church has played such an important part of my life, it is extremely hard to separate the two!

What will things be like after you have been ordained as a priest?
I am not sure, but I think it might be a bit like taking a driving test. You don’t really start learning until after you’ve passed! The ordination service itself has involved lots of planning and I am grateful to Philip for his support. I am so lucky to have the privilege of being ordained as a priest in Christ Church, surrounded by friends and family, including Isauria, who I met while in hospital giving birth to my son Merlin, as well as the Reverend Matthew Baynes, a former curate at Christ Church and his wife Bryony, to name just a few. I would like to thank everyone for all their prayers and good wishes.

Christ Church curates seem to have had a colourful history, many going on to top jobs in the church – but not before letting off steam in Southgate. We’ve heard legends of strip-poker and ‘dare’ games in the curate’s house. Is this a tradition you will be seeking to continue?
There are many important traditions I will be helping to continue at Christ Church, but that is certainly not one of them!

The Reverend Hazel Miall and her husband Philip were in conversation with Phillip Dawson, Churchwarden of Christ Church Southgate

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