Tuesday, 22 September 2020

I feel at home here, says new rector of Hambleden

THE new rector of Hambleden says he is looking forward to working in the community.

THE new rector of Hambleden says he is looking forward to working in the community.

Rev Stephen Southgate was officially inducted by the Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson at a special service at St Mary the Virgin Church in the village on Thursday last week.

Also present were rural dean and team rector Dave Bull, from Marlow, deanery chair Graeme Slocombe, ministry team members Sue Brice, John Kimberley, Jenny Roughan and Sue Morton, churchwardens and members of the public.

Mr Southgate, 55, replaces John Wigram, who left in January last year after six years to take up a post in Ripley, Derbyshire. He and his wife Anne, who have three children, have spent the last 15 years in two semi-rural parishes near Chester.

Mr Southgate described Hambleden as a “beautiful, friendly and good-spirited” community.

He said: “I read the parish profile and I felt it was just me. What they wanted in the life of the churches and the community seemed to be what I felt I had to offer.

“Because I have a heart for rural ministry and the particular strengths and needs of small churches and villages it seemed the right kind of place and everything I saw when I came here confirmed that.

“One of my aims is to build up the sense that the churches belong to the community and are here to serve the community and to encourage everyone on their spiritual journeys.”

Mr Southgate said he wanted to make the Gospel known in ways that were meaningful to all residents “regardless of background and creed”.

He is also looking forward to narrating the annual Hambleden Valley railway nativity play held at Fawley Hill, the home of Sir William and Lady McAlpine. “That was a big, exciting draw,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Flying Scotsman — we rode behind it in Salisbury in May.”

Rev Morton, the curate, said: “We’re absolutely delighted and really pleased to be welcoming Stephen. We look forward to working alongside him and to having someone to lead in Hambleden Valley.”

Mr Southgate was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1961 and grew up in Surrey and Middlesex.

After a taking a degree in religious studies and human communication, he taught in primary schools in Surrey and Lancashire for 10 years before spending two years as head of secondary religious education near Blackburn.

He trained for ordination in Durham and served a three-year curacy in Northwich, Cheshire.

He belongs to the Franciscan Third Order, which is a network of lay and ordained people who follow a simple rule of life based on Christian humility, love and joy.

Mrs Southgate trained as a nurse and midwife and has worked in various care roles.

The couple have three daughters, Lily, 29, Alice, 26 and Winnie, 20.

Mr Southgate said his passions include his 1968 Morris Minor convertible and enjoying long walks with his nine-year-old Jack Russell, Tilly. He plays the guitar and writes hymns, songs and reflections on the Christian faith.

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