Introducing our new priests

First published 16th October 2020

The Right Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, ordained 13 new priests over four services in Bristol Cathedral on Saturday 10 October.

These ordinations were due to take place in July but COVID-19 restrictions made that impossible. Instead, virtual services were held to ensure they could continue their work in the church. This was an important moment in their ordination journey and follows a year spent working alongside an experienced priest.

Revd Emily Swinerd, St Michaels Highworth

"I am married to Jamie and have two sons. My Calling to ordained ministry is completely intertwined with my faith journey. Coming to know God in the person of Jesus through a move of the Holy Spirit in my teens, I became passionate about sharing the word the Good news with people. At university I shared an agape meal with a group of students in the christian union and on reading the account of the first communion in 1 Corinthians 11, I burst into tears, knowing that this is what God has called me to do. Like most, I was not immediately obedient, I did a great jonah impression for many years, but the call of God on my life remained present and persistent. This weekend tears flowed freely again as I realised how significant this step is for me in my journey of discipleship, as a priest I now get to serve God and the Church in Word and Sacrament. All for God's glory."

Revd Paul Freeland, Pattern Church Swindon

"I became a Christian in my teenage years, but it was when I was at university studying maths, people started saying that they thought I had a calling to church leadership. I thought this was pretty hilarious but was quite encouraged that they had seen something of this within me. Over the years I had great fun working in the software industry and renovating our homes, but I couldn’t escape the fact that I felt fully alive when serving among the church. Since deciding to follow this calling, it has not always been easy, and I’ve had a few false starts, but I have been loved and encouraged through it by my amazing wife, Hannah, my three children and many wonderful Christian friends. This last year, serving my curacy at Pattern Church has been so much fun, maybe the best yet.

Revd Andy Carter, St Nicolas Bristol

I came to faith in my late teens in my home town of Walsall in the West Midlands. Finding faith turned my life upside down and I started on a path where God would lead me to work for a Church in Cambridge and then move to Bristol to train to be ordained. I had originally thought I'd do economics at uni then work in business but after learning of God's love and grace I felt an excitement and passion to share this love with others. My curacy is at St Nicholas Bristol working largely with university students and running our leadership development year. It's incredible that I get to join in with what God is already doing in Bristol and it's exciting to think about what else God has for us in the future. I'm married to Katy and we have a big, furry, rescue dog called Nola, plus a baby on the way!

Revd Aggy Palairet, St Mary Redcliffe

Before my ordination I got married, had two children, worked in laboratories and hospitals, and lived in a small missional community. I look forward to serving God and His people all the while becoming the person that God is calling me to be as a mother, a wife, a British Chinese woman, a deacon and a priest. I am serving my curacy at St Mary Redcliffe church.

Revd Laura Verrall-Kelly, St Martins Knowle

I am married to Jack and we live in the wonderful South Bristol. Similar to others, my calling to ordination has been one that has taken time, filled with many ups and downs! I came to know Jesus after the death of my dad when I was 8 years old and was struck at the church family we found ourselves in- they were loving, welcoming and as a big extrovert hanging out with a load of people on a Sunday was great! My faith grew throughout my teens and towards the end of my time at university, I encounter the Holy Spirit in a profound way where I realised God's abundant love for the first time. I have always had a heart for those who don't feel accepted by church or in someway feel an 'outsider'- I believe this is part of my call as an 'Ordained Pioneer Minister.' I honestly never thought I'd be a vicar, I never thought someone like me would fit in Church ministry. But as I stepped out and trusted God's nudging I have been amazed on the journey Jack and I have been on. We have had the pleasure of being part of many churches with different traditions and expressions, showing me the diversity and beautiful church. We have encountered God in ways which we never thought we would, but our prayer now is to always be open to the many ways in which God works.

Revd Aidan Watson, Christ Church Downend

I didn't grow up in the church and when I came to faith it was in King's Church High Wycombe, a non-denominational (now New Frontiers) church. After struggling with faith at university I was invited to do a year's internship with King's which was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Through that year I began to understand more and more the true joy that is to be found in Christ. Suprisingly, for me at least, my next move was to become a student pastor at a Church of England church. Whilst I loved student ministry through my three years there I discerned a calling for helping people in their discipleship whatever age they are. This led me to explore ordination, then to Trinity College Bristol and now to serve my curacy at Christ Church Downend. My wife Cathie is also training for ordination at the moment, we don't know exactly the shape that future ministry will take but we trust that God knows it!

Revd Pippa White, Cotham Parish Church and St Pauls Clifton

Some things in life are surprises, and becoming a priest is certainly one of those! I've always wanted to serve the Lord with my life, and that has taken me across the Atlantic and back again, getting married and becoming a mum, working in marketing and missions before I felt God draw me towards priesthood. I can honestly say this vocation is where the longings of my heart for communion with God and loving people are finding full expression. There's no greater privilege than meeting with God in word and sacrament and sharing in that with others. I love being a part of St Paul's Clifton and Cotham Parish Churches, both Inclusive Churches with a focus on justice, activism, creativity and care for our creation. I'm married to John, a pioneer curate who started the Hazelnut Community Farm church. Kudos to my 2 kids (8 & 11) for putting up with 2 vicars in the family.

Revd Joanne Hodge, Yate Parish

Since being ordained a deacon I have felt a sense of “being there but not quite”. We are living in strange times, and whilst under lockdown I had lots of time to think about just what it means to be a priest.  I have struggled with finding my sense of identity – who am I, and what am I? What is my role in my community?  With our churches closed, and all that social distancing and self-isolation brought, the second half of my curacy has been very different from anything I could have possibly imagined!  Yet God still speaks, and I continue to reflect on his call on my life.  I will continue to ponder now I am a priest. Here I am, Lord!

Revd Laura Doe, St Nicolas Bristol

My personal faith became alive while studying International Development at University, when I discovered what it meant to own a belief in Jesus for myself. Since then it has been a long journey to ordination and one which has completely surprised and encouraged me in equal measure. I am so thankful to the many people along the way who have spurred me on in this calling - I am sure that I would not be where I am today without all their prayers and support over the years. For anyone out there thinking they may be called to ordination, I would encourage you to just take the step and explore it. You never know, like me, you might find yourself ordained a priest in a few years time!

Revd Matt Stone, Woodbridge Group

I grew up in a vicarage so naturally the idea of one day getting ordained always seemed quite absurd. After studying creative writing and Literature at university I returned to London and got involved in the creative arts, booking gigs, working in theatres and for festivals including Greenbelt Festival where I was for three years. I then found my way into community development, working with the homeless communities in churches in Soho and Islington. Through this work and with the encouragement of those around me I began looking into the idea of ordination, and life has never been the same. I am delighted to have been ordained priest and look forward to continuing my curacy in the Bristol diocese. I live in Malmesbury, I have three kids, Reuben, Clara and Kit and a puppy called Ziggy.

Revd Simon Halls, Shine Church Pinehurst

When she heard about me going for Ordination training my nan used to ask me “Why do you want to go and wear one of those ‘dresses’?!” Despite having had the incredible privilege of serving as a lay Pioneer Minister to the Bishops Mission Order of shinepinehurst for a number of years, having lived there for over 25 years, I too never saw myself ever as “wearing one of those dresses!” However God in his wisdom, and sense of humour, and through the prompting of many wise friends I found myself on this journey. Like many others it has not been an easy journey and I am so grateful for support, gracefulness and encouragement of family, friends, colleagues, St. Peters and St. Philips parish and the amazing community of Pinehurst & Penhill - even if, on occasions, it requires having to wear ‘a dress’ I am privileged to be part of Gods great adventure.

Revd Mary Hotchkiss, Kingsway Benefice

I was born in Zambia and then lived, studied and spent my life between Botswana and South Africa. I have known God since I can remember. My journey to ordination has taken nearly 20 years. It began when I was studying at the University of Cape Town (although I suspect it may have been long before that!) At the time I didn’t think I could do it and also, I wanted to do other things - and I did (God is good!). I met and married Paul, I had a career in hospitality. We travelled, and then started a family.  However, that feeling never went away. Finally 6 years ago I decided to explore ordination - having continued to get gentle nudges from those around me - I did think it was crazy, especially as I was at home now with 3 young kids, how would it all work!?! It has been difficult at times but also wonderful and fulfilling. With the support of my incredible family and friends I am now where God has asked me to be. Still a mum and wife and now a Priest as well. What a joy and privilege to serve his Church.

Revd David Jones, Fromeside Benefice

Although not a cradle Christian I am not far off. I began my faith journey at four years old through the love and care of an elderly relative. I have spent many years working out, first what it means to be a Christian in the world, then what it is I am called to.  After several years of diversions and excuses I finally said yes to God and to those who persevered with their gentle encouragement. A decision supported by my wife, Elaine and our children. During two years of study at Trinity Bristol I was placed with the Fromeside Benefice, where I am now very much enjoying serving my curacy. It has been a really good time as a deacon and I very much look forward to the next few years, as I learn what it means to be a good priest serving the villages of the Fromeside benefice, working with a missional community in Yate and engaging with others exploring their call.


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