The Lambourn Benefice has a new Vicar, Julie Mintern, who has been living in Lambourn since June before being installed by the Bishop of Oxford on 29 July. Penny Post managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions about her background, her work and how she’s finding life in the Valley of the Racehorse.
What is your background?
Born in Battersea, I grew up in John Betjeman’s Metroland where, apart from my family, there were three intertwined major influences upon my life: a season ticket, the Girl Guides and a bike.
The ticket took me back and forth to school but also introduced me to our great capital city and its riches such as the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Music and opportunities to explore, sing and make music. That ticket also took me to Northwood where the Girl Guides met in the church hall. It was in this labyrinthine building that my fascination with the big questions of life and death, meaning and truth began. Peering through the door linking into the church, I resolved to explore this more deeply.
As a young girl attending alone twice a day on Sunday, I must have cast a strange figure. But, come the afternoon, I was regularly on my bike, cycling to the other great love of my young life, the tennis club, where I relished the sense of community while at the same time playing a sport I adored.
My spiritual roots are varied. Baptised in Watford Congregational church and confirmed in St John’s Presbyterian church Northwood. I became increasingly convinced that I wished to make Christianity the foundation of my life. With the love and support of my parents and the Revd John MacKelvie I was confirmed as a teenager. These years remain precious to me. If ever you notice my cross you may like to know that it was a gift to me on that special day when I said ‘Yes’ to God.
Studying for a Bachelor of Education in Cambridge and singing in Chapel Choir led to my becoming an Anglican. My love of liturgy and music grew as did my commitment to becoming a disciple of Christ. (It was also through music that I met Keith.) My spiritual vocation was revealed to me at St Mary’s Convent Wantage – but that’s worth a separate story!
Training followed at Ripon College Cuddesdon after which our recently retired Bishop offered me my title post at St Paul’s Wokingham where Keith and I spent three happy and fulfilling years.
I am mum to many, granny to even more and a lover of all things French. Although a keen sportswoman, I never really pursued horse riding and certainly not to the extent that many people in and around Lambourn do.
Keith and I are very much looking forward to putting down roots in Lambourn – two of our nine (soon to be ten) grandchildren have already tested out The Vicarage and garden and are looking forward to visiting us.
We are thrilled to be here and I’m equally thrilled to be serving The Lambourn Valley as a vicar. My calling is to serve God, to be part of a transforming community. I am excited to be part of the community and of the churches – women, men and children whose lives have been changed and transformed by Christ and who have been brought together to serve the world.
What was your last role and why did you choose to move to Lambourn?
Prior to ordination, I worked in education, my last post being in as a training assistant during my training for ministry at Ripon College Cuddesdon.
We moved to The Lambourn Valley Benefice from St Paul’s Wokingham. I completed my Curacy and applied for the post because I knew the village of Lambourn having previously visited the delightful Church of England Primary school. I also sensed in the profile of the Parish a strong overlap between my approach to faith and ministry and that of the community here. After two visits and after prayer and discussion, Keith and I felt that the Valley was the place to which God was calling us.
How are you finding it here?
It’d been wonderful. Each time we’ve been in the village there’s always been a smile and a word of greeting. The Library was especially wonderful – not only did I get to sing with the youngest of the Valley’s babies but I even obtained a library card! We’re already feeling at home. People recognise me in my clericals – dog collar, black shirt and skirt (or shorts). And, of course, I love to listen to people’s stories.
What do you hope to achieve?
It’s probably a bit early to write about any grand hopes and plans. I trust that we will gradually discern where God is leading us on the next part of the journey in the Lambourn Valley.
What can you offer local residents?
The Bishop of Oxford installed me in St Michael and All Angels church on 29 July and gave me the ‘cure of souls’. That means that I am here for everyone, supporting people in their joys, their challenges, their grief and desolation. I’m here for sharing peoples’ journeys, to listen to their stories, wherever they are in life from the very youngest to those who final journey is under way.
To put it simply my ‘work’ here is to pray, to serve and to love the people of The Lambourn Valley just as God loves each one of us. I trust that, by the grace of God I will offer pastoral care and support to all those in need – be they part of the church or not. Following the example of Christ I am there for everyone regardless of their past, their gender, colour, or creed, or their sexuality.
And I’m here to lead and to offer worship in our three churches – to prepare all those coming to baptism, for Christenings, for weddings and for funerals. Our Parish churches do not belong to me, the churchwardens or any particular person – they are there for the Parish, places of worship, of sanctuary of peace. Our parish churches should be places of welcome, hospitality and inclusion and if you pushed me, I guess I’d say that is what I would wish to achieve in this place.
There is a saying that always makes me smile: ‘Happiness is meeting a stranger who turns out to be a friend you hadn’t met’. Please excuse us if we need to be reminded of your name or forget the directions around the Parish – for a while we will be strangers but trust that we will soon become friends.
Who inspires you?
At one level the very poorest, those have least, those caught up in man’s inhumanity to man, those who face unbelievable thirst and hunger, those who are on the margins of society, those who society shuns, they inspire me.
However, I rather think you’re after a specific name or two. So here goes…
St Hildegard of Bingen a medieval German Benedictine nun born in 1098. She could be considered a 12th-century combination of Joan Chittister, Hilary Clinton and Joan Baez: a remarkable polymath whose life and work is now attracting attention because of its resonances with many present-day concerns. There are others – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dr Paula Gooder a contemporary theologian and the Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt all inspire me. Last but not least, my Keith is a human rock and an inspiration.
See also other interviews with local people: