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New minister excited by ‘new beginning’

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Here to minister: Alastair and his wife, Judi, have recently moved to the island to do God’s work

The Reverend Alistair George Bennett’s favourite subjects growing up were maths and science. So no one was more surprised than him when he decided to switch paths and venture into full-time ministry in 1978.

“It was a big change in direction for me,” said Mr Bennett, the new minister of Christ Church in Warwick.

“I went to St Andrews University [in Scotland] and graduated there with a degree in pure mathematics, with the notion I might go into the financial world.

“But it was really at that stage when I felt I wanted to work more with people. I decided to study theology and went to Edinburgh and did my divinity degree there.”

To this day Mr Bennett is still passionate about the relational side of ministry.

The 64-year-old was officially sworn in as the new minister of the Presbyterian church last Friday.

The father of three admits he and his wife, Judi, felt “warmly welcomed” by local residents.

“It very much felt like a new chapter because we had been in Melrose [in the Scottish Borders] with my previous congregation for more than 31 years,” he said. “So this is very much a new beginning for us.

“I was inducted last Friday evening and jumped right in by conducting both morning services on the Sunday, so now it’s just a question of me getting to know the people and settling in. I will be leading the services again this Sunday and soon will have the joy of my local driving test to face.”

Mr Bennett was brought up in a Christian household in Bridge of Allan, a town in central Scotland.

He was baptised as an infant and attended church regularly as a child, but “drifted away” from his faith in his teen years.

“In terms of me coming back to the faith it was nothing dramatic,” he said. “It was a gradual process.

“I started attending church again and eventually felt this desire to explore the possibility of ministry. I was also encouraged by my own minister at the time and of course, after starting the divinity degree you are involved with church congregations, and that felt right. It was an affirmation. And I went on from there to be an assistant minister.”

Since then it’s been an honour for him to be by people’s sides during the good times such as celebrations, baptisms and weddings; as well as during the bad times — when they’re dealing with illness or personal loss.

“In leaving my previous congregation, what touched my wife and I both was the number of cards and letters we received that were just words of thanks for being with them,” he said. “That was actually quite humbling and quite rewarding.”

Over the years, Mr Bennett has watched society becoming more and more secular — especially in the UK and Western Europe. The solution, in his opinion, is to continue to make the church a welcoming place — somewhere people feel at home and valued.

“The Church needs to do more to touch people’s lives,” he said. “For a lot of young people in the UK, church isn’t part of their life. Society has become very secular, so we have to create points of contact with them and make sure the experience, if they get to experience a church environment, is a positive one.”

He has learnt that people’s faith is often shaped by their life experiences — both the happy and sad times.

“Faith isn’t a once-and-for-all thing. It’s a continuing process,” he explained. “It’s a journey and one you don’t make on your own. You make it with others. That’s the benefit of church — it connects people sharing in that community.”

The Reverend Alistair George Bennett, who also happens to be chaplain to the Queen, will be ministering at Christ Church in Warwick on Sunday at 8am and 11am. For more information visit www.christchurch.bm

Relishing challenge: Alastair Bennett is the new reverend at Christ Church, Warwick