Facing a time of need is no daunting task for Marlborough’s new Methodist minister
Taking on the ministry of no fewer than four Methodist churches is nothing new to the Rev Heather Cooper, who has arrived in Marlborough as the new minister of ChristChurch, which celebrated its centenary last year.
“That is quite a task,” she admits about the prospect of looking after Pewsey, Ramsbury and Ogbourne churches as well. “Last time, in Morley, south of Leeds, I was in charge of seven churches.”
And that is the defiant approach of 51-year-old Mrs Cooper, who recognises that her arrival coincides with the economic difficulties facing families and the need for the church to help them.
Ironically, she originally worked for Barclays International for six years in her home town of Reading before deciding, while training to become a Methodist preacher, to quit and join the church full-time, finding her first appointment to be at church in far off Falkirk, Scotland.
“Banking is not a dilemma for me – I haven’t worked in a bank for 20 years,” she explains, but adds: “The church has a lot to offer in terms of support for those now in difficulties.”
“And I think that is really what we should be doing. We may not be able to solve financial problems, but we can offer people friendship, support and, above all, hope.”
“The bad times will pass. And we can get through them when we work together as communities. Then we can support those in need and perhaps help people to discover what it means to be responsible for each other.”
It was in Falkirk, in 1987, that she met and married her Welsh-born accountant husband, Neale, and since then has served for periods of between five and eight years at Methodist churches in Warrington, Colchester and Morley, becoming a church superintendent en route.
“So we have bounced around the country, covering 200 miles every time,” she says. “Methodist ministers are itinerants. My husband and I are both nomads.”
But her latest upheaval at least brings her closer to family members living at Wootton Bassett and from her new home in Marlborough she will now set out to discover more about the different churches she is to serve, ChristChurch and Pewsey in particular having more younger members than most Methodist churches.
She has been impressed by both the beauty of the area and the warmth of welcome she has received following in the footsteps of the Rev Susan Holden, who has moved to a new post as Circuit Superintendent for the Salisbury area.
“I am here to help the churches to develop their worship and fulfil their mission within their communities,” explains softly-spoken Mrs Cooper. “For the first few months it’s really just learning my way around and learning about the churches.”
“And also learning what they feel they want to do, can do and what opportunities there are within the four communities.”
Off duty, she enjoys reading and cooking, TV sci-fi programmes like Dr Who and Star Trek – “and I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles,” she reveals.