Sherborne Deanery Rural Chaplaincy and how we are winning with Covid-19!!

Sherborne Deanery Rural Chaplaincy is situated in some of the most scenic countryside in Dorset.  Geographically, we are between Sherborne in the north and Dorchester in the south, covering a total of forty-one parishes and one Abbey!  We also cover the livestock market at Salisbury.

I must confess that doing chaplaincy in this setting can be a nightmare from a logistics viewpoint!  For a start off, we are not a conventional church at all.  We have been described as a church without walls or roof – in reality, we work totally outside the box. That is truly fortunate, because as I write this, all churches are locked up due to Covid-19.   We minister to all on sundry, not just churchgoers, but to all needing help.  And what is more, with the blessing of the churches working on an ecumenical basis.

You might be asking what our chaplaincy is and why do it at all?  Farmers, rural business, and rurality generally, have their own rural specific problems.  We are not just rural with bits of the countryside bolted on.  We have our own rural issues and the local churches within the diocese are called to work with these folks in the shape of a chaplaincy.  This is just the same principle as those chaplains who work in prisons, colleges, schools, hospitals and many more!  So we can find ourselves ministering on a farm to a farmer with stress and financial worries one day, to helping a village to retain its Post Office and shop the next.  The following day we could be at a livestock market, again talking to farmers with specific problems such as bereavement or matrimonial issues.  There are many times when we will just sit and listen to a farmer and sometimes his wife, pour out their problems over a mug of tea and bacon roll.  I can hear you say that, “someone has it to do”!  The role is very varied indeed.

Farmers particularly have many major issues to deal with.  These worries include the increase of TB, Brexit, financial, milk prices, prices in general for their products, isolation and loneliness, succession planning when one of their offspring wants to run the farm and many more.  All these issues can cause mental ill health, which can very easily lead to suicide.  Farming has the highest rate of male suicide of any industry at present.

During this period of uncertainty, we are doing the majority of our ministry over the telephone.  As God obviously created Zoom, and praise be for that, it gives us the option of actually ‘seeing’ our farmers face to face, which in a relational occupation, is extremely useful.

Chaplaincy in general, but particularly Rural chaplaincy is unique, as we minister where they are, not where we want them to be.  Our ministry, we all would agree, is the best ‘life’ that we can have.  We say ‘life’ because this is not just a job, but a way of life!!

Revd Richard Kirlew 
Lead Chaplain
Tel: 01963 23570
Mobile: 07966 754110


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