After three full years in urban South Kensington we now found ourselves surrounded by Hardy’s Egdon Heath. Wareham parish is complex, consisting of the Saxon town of Wareham, nestled in its ancient earth walls, associated hamlets like Stoborough and Worgret and new housing areas like Sandford and Northport. To these were added rural parishes like Stoke, Holme, Creech and Arne: seven churches served across a huge geographical area.

I worked in the parish as part of a stipendiary team including a Rector, two curates and a “lady worker” plus retired clergy and lay readers who helped on a voluntary basis. There were also Methodist and Roman Catholic churches with their own clergy. The parish contained a geriatric hospital, a number of retirement homes; a large secondary and several primary schools.

The population included long-established Dorset families as well as retired people from other parts of the country. Some commuted to Bournemouth, Poole or even London or worked in local light industries. There were also scientists from the atomic power station at Winfrith. Apart from the heathland much of the countryside around is farmed but there is also extensive quarrying of gravel and stone and mining of china clay.

I was designated senior of the curates with special responsibility for Sandford, formerly a private estate with a mansion and formal grounds, a home farm and workers’ cottages, as well as heathland bordering Poole Harbour. There was also a factory to extract oil from shale subsequently used for making glazed pottery. In 1939 the population of Tyneham had been moved here when that village was requisitioned and another area of Sandford had been given over to “Pluto” a top secret fuel depot: additional houses had been built hastily as a result. The Victorian school came under pressure to expand to become a centre for this diverse population. Through the fifties and sixties more housing was developed – a process that has continued ever since.

It was a priority for Sandford’s priest to play a part in developing a sense community among this diverse and growing population. As this grew so did the school: a new hall and classrooms were built and we developed the old hall as a dedicated church. The original classroom became a community room where my wife began a nursery and I started a youth group. A memorable day was the bishop’s visit to dedicate the church in the name of St. Martin.

In the sixties the Church of England pressed forward with liturgical reform. Wareham was in any case of higher churchmanship than Brompton. Parish Eucharist, the main Sunday service, took on board the new Series 1 and 2 of authorised experimental worship.

Following my commitment to professional development, I embarked on a course of Clinical Theology, the application of the new psychologies to theology, developed by Dr Frank Lake, bringing a casework approach to pastoral ministry.

The Rector was John Wallis who had had a distinguished career as a wartime naval chaplain. He and his wife were great personal supports and role models of parish ministry for us – not least as our family grew with the birth of two more children during our time in Wareham. John required the regular attendance of all his team at the daily Eucharist and weekly staff meetings and each year he would take us away on a retreat together.

Wareham was a rich and busy chapter but with the Rector’s encouragement my name went forward for the living of Sturminster Newton, further north in the county of Dorset.

 


Read on to:
STURMINSTER NEWTON: 1968-74
KINGSWOOD, BRISTOL: 1974-1979

A DECADE IN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: 1979-1989
CHARISMA CONSULTANCY: 1989-2005
Or back to:
A 20TH CENTURY PRIESTHOOD IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
HOLY TRINITY, BROMPTON: 1961-1964