Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Christians from across the Sid Valley gave the new team rector a resounding welcome as he was installed in a grand ceremony on Monday.
The Reverend Canon Dr Philip Bourne has hopes of uniting the mission community with the wider town, and of bringing more youngsters to the church.
He has been a university chaplain, worked in a diocese and taken positions at home and abroad – even been a Punch and Judy man – but has never been a parish priest, so says he will relish the opportunity.
“I’m really looking forward to settling into life in Sidmouth,” said the 53-year-old.
“Now I’ve finally come to be a priest in an English parish I’m having to ask the junior clergy how to do things!”
Philip, a divorced father-of-three grown sons, will continue to spread the word of God far and wide – as he has done from an early age.
He grew up in Gloucester, where his parents were lapsed Christians until they heard their 11-year-old son play the organ.
Philip struggled in his own relationship with God before a ‘profound experience’ helped him come to terms with the death of his best friend, aged just 14.
“I had a dream that gave me an understanding of eternal life. I didn’t understand it until I learned what had happened,” the reverend said.
“It would be much easier not to believe, but when I weigh up all the good and all the bad, I still find myself on the side of faith.”
He used the vision to help his classmates and the boy’s family through the tragedy.
Philip tried resisting his calling but soon entered the clergy, at first in Wakefield, then at Exeter University, before ‘itchy feet’ took him to the Netherlands.
His wife Elizabeth did not wish to return, and they separated.
“It’s good to have negative life experiences or we can’t relate to those we try to help,” he said. “It’s a great privilege to be with people at the best and worst times of their lives.”
The reverend moved to his new home in Glen Road from Brighton.
He hopes to expand the age range of the Sid Valley flock, potentially taking advantage of cuts to youth services to attract a younger crowd.