In 2001 the Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury District in conjunction with the then Shrewsbury Circuit set up the Agricultural/Rural Chaplaincy. The work was split 50/50 between work in the Circuit and work in the agricultural sector. As a Rural Chaplain time was spent in visiting the auction markets and various agricultural shows, getting to know the farming community and be known by them. This enabled the Chaplain to be a resource to the Markets/Farmers/ Rural community when pastoral needs arose and to help link Rural and Christian communities. The Rev. Eleanor Reddington was appointed to take up this role, based in Shrewsbury.
In 2006 the role was ‘re-organised’. Eleanor moved to Bishop’s Castle and was now to spend 85% of her time on rural chaplaincy work and 15% of her time as a Circuit Minister, now working in the Marches Circuit.
A grant from the national Methodist Church which had helped to fund the work of the rural chaplain came to an end in 2010. The Chaplaincy Management Committee looked at possible ways the funding gap could be filled. The suggestion was to set up a Food Chain Chaplaincy linking all the components of the Food Industry from growers through to Supermarkets and Shops. It was hoped that since this also would be beneficial to supermarket chains they may be willing to provide some finance to support this. No supermarkets have yet agreed to join this scheme and with funding coming to an end it was decided that full-time Chaplaincy would have to cease for the present. The Rev. Eleanor Reddington who had been in post for ten years moved to Cornwall in August 2011.
The Management Committee were extremely keen to try and continue this valuable work and have been able to secure some limited funding enabling us to provide some part-time Chaplaincy to the rural Community. We have been very fortunate that Mr. David Gwatkin, a farmer from the Leominster area, has been willing to step in to this role. He will visit some of the markets and Agricultural Shows and seek to be a continuing link between rural communities and the Church. It is hoped that we will be able to build on this foundation and, with possible other funding, be able to develop the Chaplaincy role further.