A new minister for Kerrier has conducted her first service in a medieval Cornish church where services have taken place for the past 1500 years.

Kerrier Deanery’s new pioneer minister, the Reverend Susie Templeton conducted her first Cornish service on Sunday, September 24 in the Church of St Winwaloe – known locally as the church of the storms – out on the windswept Lizard coast.

The medieval church stands on a site where Christian worship has taken place for fifteen hundred years.

“It’s a gorgeous place,” she says. “There’s something quite special there. There’s a real spirituality about the place.”

Born into a naval family in Portsmouth, she’s lived, worked and studied as far afield as Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Brazil.

She was six when her father’s latest posting took the family to Brunei for a couple of years – at the end of which, they spent six weeks travelling home in order to see a bit of the world.

“It was quite formative for me – to have experienced such an adventure at such a young age,” she says.

A decade later, when she’d finished school, she went to Borneo to work on a coral reef conservation project, where she learned to scuba dive.

“Those beautiful reefs,” she recalls. “I absolutely fell in love with it.”

Dreaming of a career as a marine biologist, she went on to study Biology with Science Communication at Royal Holloway in London. But when she completed her degree, she realised that such tropical dream jobs were few and far between, and she didn’t much fancy working in a laboratory for the rest of her life.

So, she chose to pursue the media side of her skills, and for a while took temporary work and travelled a lot.

At the end of her studies, she’d worked for the church as a student worker, and had taken a group of students on a trip to Brazil. She later completed an internship with a wildlife filmmaking company in Cape Town.

She’d always been a person of faith, having been brought up attending the naval church in Portsmouth and then joining a local church youth group when she was twelve.

“That was when I really started to understand my faith for myself,” she recalls.

She’d been involved in the church while at university, and remembers having a conversation with her curate about whether she felt called to ministry.

“But it wasn’t the right time – I wanted to explore the world some more,” she says. “My twenties were a bit hectic – a bit chaotic but full of really enriching experiences – experiencing things outside my comfort zone, seeing things through other people’s eyes.

“I became really passionate about mission and about cross-cultural connections and what we could learn from each other – about coming with open hands rather than coming with all the solutions. I think that set me up well for pioneering ministry.”

In 2008, she travelled to Australia to take a discipleship course, which was followed by an outreach phase working with a youth group in Indonesia.

Returning to the UK, she took work for a charity based in Southampton making videos helping churches engage with the media, while also completing a part-time Master’s programme in documentary filmmaking back at Royal Holloway.

“But I realised I wasn’t really cut out to do that kind of work,” she says. “It sucked the joy out of it for me.”

In 2011, back in Portsmouth, she got a job with the Methodist Church as part of the chaplaincy team at HMS Gosport, supporting the work of a coffee lounge attached to the chaplaincy.

“It was good fun,” she says. “And we also did some quite inventive ministry.”

One day, one of the chaplains sat her down and told her to stop messing around and get ordained.

She started training at Cuddesdon theological college in 2015 and was ordained three years later in Oxford. The following year, she became a priest in Reading, and served her curacy just outside the town.

She then spent two years as an interim minister, looking after a neighbouring parish that was in vacancy.

“I was there to provide some stability,” she explains. “It was good. It wasn’t what I’d expected to be doing, but it taught me a lot. Having that grounding in parish work has enhanced my ability to minister as a pioneer.

“It wasn’t always easy, but we really invested in families and young people. We found ways of involving the kids in our services. And we started Wild Church once a month on Sunday afternoons. Lots of families came to that. There were opportunities to engage that gave their kids space to be kids.”

And her next stop was Cornwall.

“I’m really excited to be here,” she says. “It’s a big move and it’s a big job. It’s a big area and a lot of churches. We have to be more creative about how we engage and what we want church to look like.”