Meet our vicar!

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He likes Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, eating out, movies, theatre, opera, rugby, football, Dr Who, Bob Dylan, photography, astronomy, swimming: Revd   Jonathan Widdess started as our new vicar in March 2017.  He and Amanda and their children Elizabeth (7) and Benji (5) are living in the vicarage in Cumnor.

They have already lived and worked in the parish: while Jonathan was training for the ordained ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford in 2007-2009, they lived in Pinnocks Way and worshipped at St Andrew’s.  As part of his course Jonathan did some practical parish work with our previous vicar, Revd Geoff Maughan.  After being ordained in the Church in Wales, he served his curacy at St Mark’s Gabalfa, in Cardiff, and more recently was Priest in Charge of the Parish of Bargoed and Deri with Brithdir in the Upper Rhymney Valley.

But before all this, Jonathan was an atheist with a successful career in IT.  So what happened?

‘A series of things led me to reconsider my being an atheist,’ Jonathan says. ‘I was made redundant from a job I loved and after six months desperately searching I finally got a better one, and despite losing six months’ salary and keeping up our mortgage payments we were in a stronger position financially that we had been before. Something I can only attribute to the prayers of my parents. I was also deeply struck by the strength and faith my Dad, a Methodist minister, showed as he took my Grandma’s funeral. He had a strength in the face of death that I knew I didn’t have and that I wanted – atheism just wasn’t working for me. We found a good local church and started attending regularly, wanting to explore Christianity afresh and over a period of weeks my intellectual objections to Jesus Christ were slowly overcome. Eventually it was clear that Christianity was true and so I needed to do something about that – I gave my life to Jesus. As I did I knew something changed. I felt different. Pretty soon after that I had an extraordinary experience at an evening service and knew that God was calling me to preach and over the following few years as I tested that call, it grew clearer and clearer that God was calling me to serve him by being ordained.’

So how does he feel about making the big move to Cumnor from the former mining valleys of South Wales?

‘It’s a new challenge, and a great place to live in a thriving community on the edge of a vibrant city. It’s three churches that have lots of potential and a real desire to serve the communities they are part of even more effectively than they do at the moment. God loves Cumnor and we are praying that we’ll see the good news of Jesus transforming people’s lives here just as we have in South Wales.

‘Someone wiser than me once said that the task of the church in each generation is to clean the face of Christ. I think that partly means that we need to emphasise different aspects of the good news about Jesus to connect with places, different generations and different cultures. What resonates in the former mining valleys of South Wales may not resound so well in Oxfordshire. I know I have a lot to learn about life and ministry in Cumnor so that I can help us all know Jesus better, but I love learning and I’m really looking forward to getting started.’

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