Thursday, 09 December 2021

Banking career helps with ministry work, says vicar

THE new vicar of Shiplake, Harpsden and Dunsden has begun work.

THE new vicar of Shiplake, Harpsden and Dunsden has begun work.

Rev Robert Thewsey, who has taken over at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Shiplake, became a vicar 16 years ago after a career in finance.

Born in Stretford in Greater Manchester, near the Old Trafford football and cricket grounds, he went straight into banking after school.

He worked for NatWest for 14 years and became a financial advisor before taking voluntary redundancy because he “couldn’t agree with the principles”.

He was then unemployed for six months before going to work at Norton Priory, an historic abbey in Cheshire.

It was only after marrying his wife Margaret and returning to live near his home town that he decided to pursue a life in the church.

Rev Thewsey, who has two children, Matthew, 20, and 16-year-old Rebecca, said: “We joined the local church and within six months the vicar tapped me on the shoulder and said I had a calling for the ministry.

“I had to work out what God was calling me to do. The selection process took three years and was quite rigorous as there was lots of testing and weekends away.

“I trained at Ripon College in Cuddesdon, starting in 1999, and was deaconed in Manchester in 2001. It was back where I used to work in the bank and I was dealing with the same people again.”

Rev Thewsey’s first parish was back in Stretford, where some of his parishioners could remember him as a child.

He spent four years there before moving to Boscastle in Cornwall, where he ended up looking after eight churches in the parish. He said: “It was a beautiful part of the country, very remote. They had very bad floods in 2004 and there was a TV series on the parish a couple of years before I started.” Rev Thewsey says everything he has learned during his varied career has helped him with his ministry.

He said: “I know what it’s like to work in a nine-to-five job but I’ve also been unemployed so I know what that means.

“My financial background has helped me within the church because a big part of what we do is caring for these fantastic medieval buildings on a shoestring budget.

“People think they are maintained by the local authority but we actually have to pay for them ourselves.”

After eight years in Cornwall, he decided he wanted a change and chose Shiplake after looking round the area.

He said: “We have a lot of friends in Oxford and it was the right time to move. We had been in Boscastle for eight years and needed a new direction. We looked at the profile of the area and what the parish is aspiring to do.”

Rev Thewsey says his first three weeks have been hectic with both the move and new job but he is looking forward to getting to know his parishioners.

“They are lovely people here and we’ve been made to feel extremely welcome,” he said. “It’s a really nice area and it’s a great privilege to be here.

“I’ve had so many meetings but I managed to do my first visit last week and I’m hoping to get out and see parishioners.

“I haven’t even been to the local shop as it has taken so long to unpack and my study is full of books!

“I haven’t seen much of the area but I will get out there. I want to find out what God is trying to do here, work alongside people and be their pastor.

“It’s about growing alongside people, trying to find out their skills and seeing where God is in everybody’s lives as well as being a part of the community.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say