On this page, we will be featuring some of the people who make sure that St Catherine’s continues to provide a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ to the Parish of Montacute, and to the many visitors who we welcome to our beautiful and historic village. These are the people who look after and run the historic building, everything that happens in it and who organise and run its many activities. They are also the people who ensure that everyone who comes to St Catherine’s or has need of the Church’s help finds a warm welcome, support and an experience of God in meeting with St Catherine’s people.
Introducing our ministry team……..
Revd. Peter Thomas – Rector of the Ham Hill Villages Benefice
Peter is a hugely experienced parish priest, now serving in his 5th Diocese, and has a passion for serving the communities in Jesus’ name in the rural environment. Add to that his Somerset origins in North Petherton, and two spells as Rural Dean (including here in the Ivelchester Deanery) and we have a priest amongst us who brings enormous gifts to his new task of forming the 7 parishes around Ham Hill into a new Benefice.
Peter became a Christian through a ‘coffee-bar mission’ near Bridgwater in 1971. He gained a Maths degree at Imperial College, London where he was involved with both the Christian Union and the local church. It was during his time in London that his mother sadly died so after graduating he worked in Taunton for a period before theological college (Trinity, Bristol), to be with his father. He was ordained in 1980.
“Whilst a curate in Gloucester I married the PCC secretary (Anne). A second curacy in Loughborough was followed by 7 years in an Urban Priority Area in Merseyside where, within 2 weeks of arrival, our boys (Simon and Colin, now 30 and both men of faith, who are a great encouragement to us) were born. Our desire to be in rural ministry was then met by 13 years in a benefice of 3 villages in Worcestershire – including 5 years as Rural Dean.”
July 2005 found Peter responding to God’s call to Norton sub Hamdon and the other villages around the hill from Montacute. “We had a real sense of moving back home”. 7 years as Rural Dean followed and in line with the 2004 Deanery plan he also became priest in charge of Stoke sub Hamdon in June 2012.
So what makes Peter tick? “I love Jesus! My vision of rural ministry includes a recognition, of having the “care of souls” for all the people of the parishes. It also includes a need to establish and extend the Kingdom of God; those who acknowledge Jesus as King. My vision is for God’s people to be more confident in their relationship with God, and for others to understand more of the relevance of God in their lives. I would like to hear people talking about what God means to them rather than about what they do in the church”
And what does Peter want to happen here in Montacute as part of the new Benefice? He sees the Parishes with sense of individual identity but also a belonging to the whole group “It is not about creating uniformity; but discovering what it is that we can do “better together” and how we best serve God in our own parishes”.
A keen Somerset cricket supporter, Peter enjoys walking in the countryside (of course involving pub lunches!) for relaxation. Anne paints, loves steam trains and enjoys delving deep into, and writing about, her family history. Together they are very family couple.
Revd. Annie Gurner – Associate Priest with pastoral responsibility for Montacute Parish
Revd. Annie Gurner, our Associate Vicar who we share on a part-time basis with Odcombe parish is a country girl. “I grew up in a large RAF family with a typical itinerant lifestyle (her home in Somerset is her 34th!) although much of the time we lived in rural villages. Apart from a few years at college in London, I have always chosen to live, and raise my own family, in the country – primarily in Cambridgeshire.”
She married when still a student, but the marriage only lasted 15 years and while the children were still small Annie became the breadwinner and single parent. She and Roger, a widower, have been married for 10 years. “I have two great children: Luke, who is a brewer in Yorkshire and Alice, who helps combat veterans in California. I’m also blessed with 2 grandsons, Leo and Samuel. Roger also has adult children and grandchildren.”
Annie came to faith as a young adult. A church member – Baptist, ecumenical and latterly Anglican – all her life, Annie has been youth leader, home group leader, renewal co-ordinator, churchwarden and treasurer. Annie was licensed as a Reader in Ely Diocese and then in her late 40s, challenged by her parish’s call she studied for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. There followed busy rural parish jobs in both Lincolnshire and East Cambridgeshire. During this time Annie was also a Diocesan spirituality advisor and part of the clergy education team. Annie’s work amongst 4 churches in 6 villages close to Newmarket was all about “bringing together God’s people from differing backgrounds and traditions, moving the group forward especially through the creation of lay leadership teams”.
Since 2013, she has been a Deanery rural life advisor in Crewkerne and Ilminster in South Somerset, and a casework volunteer with Farming Community Network, a Christian charity. It was early in the process of helping our group of parishes on behalf of the Diocese to create their profiles ready for seeking a new priest that Annie felt and responded to God’s call, excusing herself from the process. The rest is history!
Annie’s professional career prior to ordination was similarly rich and busy. After 20 years as an R&D manager in the healthcare sector, she was involved with 3 start-up companies, working as a management consultant, and Health Economist. “Along the way I became a National Education Officer in the healthcare sector, wrote several books and held university posts in Cardiff, UEA and Cambridge”.
“My passion is for growing things – plants, animals (I was a livestock farmer for 10 years), friendships and fellowship, and, most importantly, churches. I look forward to sharing Gods love and the gospel message with all these village communities, joining in with what God is doing here, and nurturing faith wherever it may be found, in young and old alike.”
If you are exhausted reading this, it is only the barest of outlines! just ask Annie for the details and the story of how she is walking with Jesus through a remarkable life……..
Susan Laycock – Reader
Margaret describes herself as having been the “distaff assistant” Church Warden at Montacute for over 20 years. There can be few people in the village who do not know her, whether formerly as a Steward at Montacute House or in her current many involvements in the Women’s Institute, Montacute Gardening Club, to name just a few.
Margaret is very modest about her earlier life before coming to Montacute in 1990. After her marriage in 1953 she travelled the world with her late husband John, moving house 23 times in 30 years as he pursued his stellar military career. Their marriage was rich in its experiences but along the way had its lows as well as its joys – Margaret suffered a number of unsuccessful pregnancies but now takes huge joy in her son, Peter, and her two grandchildren, although she wishes they were closer at hand than in Hong Kong. John died of cancer in 1997.
There is yet more to Margaret’s story. Brought up in the Methodist Church she ran the Youth Club and Choir at Wandsworth multi-activity church after work in the City, and then at the Time and Talent Settlement in Bermondsey where she again ran the Youth Club. After joining the Anglican church that was “just across the road” she became an early female professional in the Probation Service. The opportunity arose to study for a Social Sciences Diploma at Nottingham University. Margaret spent her holidays working in Mental Health, Open Prison and Child Welfare. After graduating she worked in Lymmington as a Probation Officer.
St Catherine’s is fortunate indeed to have benefitted from Margaret’s, deep and uncomplicated faith, breadth of experience and tireless work amongst our community
“After over 50 years as Church Warden and living in the village for more than that I feel like I can call Montacute home – even if some still see me as an outsider!” Gordon laughs as he begins to recount a life so full on experiences and interests a book could be written about them. In fact, Gordon is doing just that, writing his memoirs!
However, to return to his roots, he lived his early life just a few miles away in Hardington Mandeville where he still retains strong connections. Childhood sickness gave him an enquiring mind as he was given encyclopaedias to read to keep him occupied. His schooling was at Crewkerne Grammar School but his passion was always for doing things with wood, the outdoor life and of course bell ringing.
As well as serving us so selflessly for almost a lifetime, Gordon is the Tower Captain – a role in which he is 8th generation! Son, Ivan, rings and Gordon’s two eldest grandchildren (he has 7) are learning. There can be few families to boast ten generations of ringers. Gordon himself is an Honorary Life Member of the Diocesan Association of Ringers and as well as pulling a rope he is still actively involved in the repair and maintenance of towers all over the south-west.
Wood has been the constant theme of Gordon’s work life – his grandfather was a waggon builder and wheelwright – whether it was bespoke joinery in the early days or antiques restoration later on in association with the National trust. Poetry, music, photography – one could go on.
However this brief profile would not be complete without including Una, his wife of nearly 60 years and who is always to be seen at his side. The Rendells spend huge amounts of time with their grandchildren, but they also live with the sadness of losing Andrew, their second child to cancer at the age of 23. That has been hard to live with.
The Rendell family motto is “loyalty and dedication” – Gordon’s mother told him “Do it, stick at it. You will catch more flies with treacle than vinegar” A final word from Gordon “My life has been what I wanted it to be. Faith is all you have, you have to have something to hang on to”
Treasurer – Nic Laycock