Previously minister in County Donegal, Southern Ireland, and originally from Dungannon, Northern Ireland, Rev John has, according to his own description, in many ways a green heart, if not the green fingers normally associated with environmentalists. He has a love for the beauty and peace of God's creation and tries to get time to put on his walking boots and get out in the open air, preferably up a hill or two. With 16 years of rural ministry in Ireland behind him John is aware of not only the grandeur and beauty of the countryside, but the increasing financial/social struggles and ethical dilemmas faced by rural communities. Jesus said to his disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." These words are taken from the Gospel according to Mark's record of the Great Commission and move the focus beyond human beings.
His last ministry there served a fishing and farming community whose people shared many of the concerns of people in Bishop Auckland. He said: I went there just as recession hit and it was quite a deprived community. I was working with a lot of folks who had lost jobs in the construction industry. It was also quite close to the border with Northern Ireland. I worked closely with the Catholic priest and the Anglican rector there, trying to bring communities together during the years of the Troubles.
It's the peace-building part of Methodism, reaching out to people, that I want to continue here.
In 2015 John and his wife Vanessa moved across to Bishop Auckland, a veritable metropolis after the quiet rural communities they had served in Ireland. Vanessa, a Yorkshire lass, shares Johns commitment to sourcing the best local food and keeps him supplied with homemade bread, including her special chocolate bread following the LOAF principles of being Locally produced, Organically sourced, Animal friendly and Fairly traded.
Vanessa has family in Sunderland (hence the move to this part of the world) and while they have no children, John says we do have a spider plant called Pineapple and enjoy hill-walking, art, literature and music. On the ethical side of things, I have an electric car, am concerned about carbon footprint and justice issues. I have been involved in various Fairtrade committees, including achieving Fairtrade town status on a couple of occasions and have led the church here in Bishop Auckland to also be recognised as a Fairtrade church.
With Vanessa at my side, I seek to remember my call as an ordained Presbyter of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. A call to Declare the Good News; Celebrate the sacraments; Serve the needy; Minister to the sick; Welcome the stranger; Seek the lost. A call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ. This I have attempted to exercise in three circuits on the western fringe of Ireland in counties Limerick, Cork and Donegal and beforehand as a youth and community worker connected to two circuits in the greater Belfast area, and now continue to do so in Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area.
A text that is at the heart of what John tries to do is within the context of Jesus speaking in John's Gospel about the Shepherd and his flock. John 10 v.10b "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."