Letter from The Revd. Sheila Thomas

Dear All

On 8 October, I will be licensed by the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Revd Karen Gorham, to the Parish of West Parley as an Associate Priest. 

My husband, Graham, and I first went to St Marks when I retired from my day job and we moved to Ferndown two and a half years ago.  And after receiving a super warm welcome here, have been attending ever since.

Graham and I have three children (two sons, Chris and Nick and daughter Topsy) and 8 grandchildren.  I was born and brought up in Surrey but moved to Wiltshire in my 20s.  After Graham and I married we moved to Pembroke where the children were born and where we stayed until we moved to Dorset in 1984.

Wherever I’ve lived I have attended the local church but it wasn’t until we moved to Marnhull in the north of the county, that I became more involved.  Among other things I served as PCC secretary there for some 15 years and was also a deanery synod rep. In addition I was a liturgical lay deacon, a member of the choir, was involved with the ministry of healing and wholeness and ran a discussion group based on the forthcoming Sunday readings.   However, as time went on I became increasingly aware of a growing vocation to ordained ministry but, apprehensive of what this might entail, I buried my head in the sand and instead went to work as an English language teacher in Spain, China and Greece – in the hope by the time I came back, any possible calling might have gone away!  In spite of this, on my return to England I realised that I would have to explore things, with the result that I was accepted for training at STETS (Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme) in Salisbury.  Because of my age, I was to be trained for ordination on the basis that I would not have charge of a parish, or be paid, but would be licensed as a voluntary Associate Priest, working as part of a ministry team. 

My initial training lasted 3 years during which I continued with my day job which was now as an administrator with a drug and alcohol rehab charity.  The training was part parish based, part home learning with tutorials and written assignments and part weekend residentials at STETS.  I was ordained priest in June 2010 and served my curacy in Marnhull after which I was licensed to the neighbouring Okeford Benefice.  This comprised 5 rural parishes with a ministry team consisting of the Rector, a licensed lay minister and me.  As I still had my day job, opportunity for exercising ministry was mainly limited to Sundays, though I was able to do pastoral work and I ran the contemplative prayer group.

Sad as I was to leave the Okeford Benefice, when my daughter and her family bought a house in Ferndown, Graham and I had the opportunity to move into their annexe.  Having moved, I applied to the Diocese for Permission to Officiate enabling me to take services in my own parish (to cover for holidays etc) and in other parishes in the diocese if requested.  

After licensing by the Bishop I will be far more involved with ministry in this parish, working collaboratively with Charles under his direction, and together we have drawn up a Ministry Specification detailing how that will work.

I’m very excited and really looking forward to this new phase in my ministry journey and to serving the people of West Parley and meeting more of you.

With every blessing


Revd. Sheila Thomas
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