The Revd Jane Wilson came to Bridport this summer to be the minister at Bridport United Church and Uploders Chapel. Now she’s settled in, we took the chance to find out a bit more about her…
The Bridge: Welcome to Bridport! Where have you moved from?
Jane Wilson: My previous role was at Keynsham Methodist Church, in the North East Somerset and Bath Circuit. Before that I was in Droitwich for 10 years – my first post as a minister.
TB: So you had a ‘first career’ before deciding to enter the church?
JW: Yes, I was a litigation solicitor for 20 years in Birmingham city centre – about 12 years of that as a partner. I was dealing with cases involving serious injury, sometimes death. To be honest I became less and less enamoured with it.
TB: So, ultimately, what made you leave?
JW: Basically God did! I’d always had faith, but the catalyst was a colleague who came back to his faith after 20 years away and decided to become a Methodist local preacher – he was on fire! I went to talk to my church minister about the possibility of preaching. It was a big decision: my husband, Graham, has been made redundant three or four times during our marriage and I was the breadwinner at that time – and we had four young children. Luckily I was able to study part time in Birmingham while working, and I got accredited as a local preacher, the first step towards becoming a minister.
TB: How did you move ahead with your training after that?
JW: I went to an open day at The Queen’s Foundation, a theological college in Birmingham. I had a lovely time, and I went to the students’ service. At the end we were each given a slip of paper with a Bible verse, and mine was Mark 6:50 – “Do not be afraid, it is I. Follow me.” God was telling me to listen. So I applied to the college and got in. I spent four years there, again part time, before being stationed as a minister.
TB: So it was the right decision?
JW: Oh yes – this is what I was supposed to be doing. My first minister post was a journey for us all. Our four children were all in education at the time – we moved house and they all changed schools, but after another redundancy Graham had by then changed career from accountancy to teaching the guitar. He was teaching in schools near where we were sent, so God was ahead of us.
TB: How does your experience as a solicitor inform your work as a minister?
JW: As I went through my ministry training I realised the significance of having helped other people through traumatic experiences in my previous career. Being able to help them spiritually felt far more meaningful than helping to find a legal solution, and fed my compassion and empathy. Now, as a minister, I also walk alongside people going through difficult life changes; it’s a massive privilege to do so, and to be able to give reassurance and comfort. I’m the minister I am because of the experience I’ve had. As a solicitor I hated legal jargon – I always tried to make it understandable and meaningful for my clients. Now I try to do the same with theological language, trying to translate it to make it meaningful to real life.
TB: What makes the Christian church relevant to our way of life in 2022?
JW: Christianity is about values that are sometimes hard to find – authenticity, honesty, openness to other people, to God, and to being surprised in good ways. I think Covid unleashed a search for meaning; it brought us face to face with mortality and people started to grapple more with the deep stuff. Superficial things were stripped away and everything was reset. During lockdown people noticed creation, too, as well as the power of stillness. As a society we’re not good at being still, but I hope we can keep it going to some extent.
TB: What’s your favourite part of the job?
JW: Hearing and sharing stories, and watching as people realise they can do things. As a minister, I see myself as an enabler and encourager, helping people discover their potential. I also love all our forms of worship – the ancient liturgy, modern services and silent prayer – and I particularly love using music in worship.
TB: What do you like to do in your spare time?
JW: I love wild places, getting out in nature, and particularly swimming in the sea. I also love gardening – I grew up in a Cadbury house in Bournville and I always helped in the garden. I’ll be putting up a greenhouse in our garden here in Bridport so we can try and grow food. And our son Tom and his wife are expecting a baby girl in February – our first grandchild. Now that’s something to look forward to!