Town and Country

by Michael Ford last modified 18 Oct, 2018 03:16 PM

“There is as much opportunity in a rural context to lead a lively, thriving church.”

After a lifetime living in towns, last year the Revd Ali Bridewell started as Priest in Charge of the new Wellsprings Benefice, centred on Devizes.

“All six villages are different from one another, making it very interesting.

“I grew up in St Francis’ Church in Salisbury, staying involved through to adulthood. I eventually led youth ministry there with my husband Stuart.

“Eventually, I became more unsettled in my MoD researcher career, and trained as a counsellor to degree level. At the same time, I found a call to ordained ministry deepening. As I started to test it, the doors opened one after another.

“I was offered a generous redundancy, which funded me to work part-time during my years training at Sarum. I worked for Bemerton Methodist Church’s outreach worker, a great experience of ecumenical working.

“I started training on my own financing, not going to selection conference until February of the first year. I am not a risk taker but had a real sense of God calling me out of my comfort zone!

“My curacy was also in Bemerton. The community centre on the estate was a great base to learn how to be a priest, but was quite pioneering - building networks and community.

“I was surprised to find myself applying to work in a country benefice, but we felt a definite call. The same skills are required as in towns. It’s about making the right connections with people. People are still committed to their local church, although they may not come often on Sunday mornings, so we must connect outside the historic patterns.

“A difference is that a rural vicar can’t be anonymous, but people have been incredibly welcoming and friendly. 

“Rural ministry is a full-on job but there are great joys; growing our own vegetables, a strong community and good neighbours. It’s a great place to walk the dogs in tranquil countryside. The village pub is also a great place to build friendships and relationships!”

(October 2018)

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