In the pod this month is the Revd John Yarrien, superintendent minister for Dorset South & West Methodist Circuit. Since October his responsibilities have included Bridport United Church (BUC) and Uploders Methodist Chapel, following the retirement of the Revd Peter Clark. He lives in Dorchester with his wife, Cora.
The Bridge: What are your earliest memories of your Christian faith?
John Yarrien: My earliest memory of faith is standing as a five-year-old in Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, breaking out in song in the nave, singing Away in a Manger – in the middle of summer! I remember the feeling of awe, wonder and peace as I stood looking up at the sky – and as I pointed up, shouting: “God’s up THERE, Mum…?”
TB: What drew you to the United Church?
JY: Well, to be honest, I was ‘sent’ by the Methodist church to Bridport United Church. When I arrived the first thing I did was tuck into one of their famous ‘big breakfasts’ and I knew I would fit right into this welcoming and hospitable church. More seriously, the congregation’s heart for opening the doors, coming alongside and serving the community in Bridport shone through, and I knew God had called me here to build on the wonderful work already being done, through a ministry of enabling and encouraging.
TB: How do your own life experiences help you in your work as a minister?
JY: Before I entered ministry I worked as an IT consultant for Hampshire County Council, and was responsible for the computer systems used by a part of Children’s Services. I was a bit like a bridge, a translator between the techy IT teams and the ‘client’. At the time I had no real idea that God was equipping me with some really important skills in terms of ‘change management’, which we do a lot of in ministry, as well as both being part of, and leading, a team. I was nicknamed the ‘agony uncle’ of the office because I used to chat and listen to colleagues in the office kitchen, and it was amazing to me what people shared and sought counsel about. Now, in ministry, I am called to sit with folks, listening to them at points of joy and points of desperation in their journeys of life and faith, and this is such a privilege. I loved my IT job and found it a nurturing and supportive work environment, but looking back I realise I never felt as at peace as I do now, doing a job I feel called to do, serving God, church and community.
TB: What makes Christianity relevant to our way of life in 2022?
JY: In our world, turned upside down by Covid-19 and with the rising costs of living, I believe people are seeking truth and certainty and are trying to find their place in the world. Christianity offers the truth and certainty that God holds all things in his hands. He created all things, and whether or not we know that truth for ourselves, God loves each one of us. At the heart of Christianity is community and the truth that all are welcome. In a difficult period in our global lives, we need more than ever to be ‘in community’, so we might share the joy, hope, peace and love that Christian community and faith in Jesus Christ offers.
TB: What’s your favourite part of the job?
JY: It’s the moment when I’ve preached a sermon and a member of my congregation comes up to me at the end of the service and says “you know when you said… well that got me thinking…” Then I know that, for that person, God has connected my words with their lives and experience, and they are changed, or something has shifted in their thinking and on their journey of faith.
TB: What do you like to do in your spare time – if you have any?
JY: Cora and I have two lively labradors, Rolo and Poppy, and we love finding fields and waterside walks for them. They love nothing more than chasing after a ball or sloshing in the water. I love films, and although we haven’t been to the cinema much lately, we’ve got caught in the warren of movies and shows on Netflix! And if I need to
de-stress I assemble my clarinet and
play for a few minutes. I get lost in the music, which really helps on busy days when I can’t see the wood for the trees!
TB: Please tell us a fact about yourself that our readers don’t know…
JY: In 2013 I spent a year in the USA as part of my training as a Methodist minister. In December 2013, Cora (then my girlfriend) came out to visit for three weeks. When we arrived in the Great Smoky Mountains, along the Tennessee/North Carolina border, I popped the big question, and Cora said yes. We were married on a hot summer’s day in 2014 at Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire.