Wiltshire Publications

Popular reverend retires from White Horse Ministry Team

REVEREND Jonathan Burke will soon deliver his final service at All Saints’ Church, after seven years with the White Horse Ministry Team.

Jonathan Burke grew up on the Dorset coast and after a stint as a teacher, became a priest over 30 years ago, before joining the White Horse Ministry Team in 2008. He has since played a key role in the Westbury area church community, as well as in the BA13+ partnership, and is a founding member of local charity Crosspoint.

Jonathan said, “I am retiring because I am aware that I get weary and can’t do as much as I would wish. The team ministry is in a strong position with some very gifted colleagues who will continue to develop and deliver much that the church needs to do in the twenty first century.  It has been great to work with such good people over the past seven years – both lay and ordained.

“Young people are very much part of the local community and lots of visits to schools have enabled me to get to know some of them and to hear their ideas and views – I have also served as a school governor for three schools locally, including as chair of governors at Westbury Junior School. I am always heartened and impressed by the commitment of both adults and the pupils within our schools.

“I am proud to have been one of the founder members of Crosspoint – a charity now firmly established locally which has given practical help to hundreds of people and provided a venue for other activities as well.

“I hope to have a bit of a rest before embarking on some volunteering and perhaps helping out in churches in the Poole and Bournemouth conurbation where we will be living – also our four children and five grandchildren will be nearby and will hopefully welcome some of our time, too. I hope that my successor will enjoy life here as much as Sandra and I have – there are challenges and lots of new possibilities, but that makes each day interesting and is, I believe, why God puts people here in church leadership roles.

“Westbury has a fascinating history and some lovely buildings; I have loved daily visits to the White Horse to walk the dogs and, of course there are some wonderful characters here – it is people who have featured so much in our time here.

“As a railway enthusiast, I have also enjoyed the railway connections and the numerous steam trains that come our way. And the White Horse News is the best local paper I have ever come across!”

Westbury town councillor and chair of the Westbury Music & Arts Festival, Ian Cunningham, described the reverend’s retirement as a massive loss to the town.

Ian said, “In trying to describe a little of Jonathan’s impact on Westbury, there’s a danger of sounding a little like an obituary. But Westbury is losing a tireless supporter and to many people who have come to rely on Jonathan for his generous help, wise advice, leadership and care, I think his departure will be a kind of bereavement.

“Although Jonathan’s made an important contribution to his church, it is the work he has done in the wider community that has been most felt. As a Rector, Jonathan went to where people were and provided practical help and support to those who needed it wherever he found them. As an example, Jonathan was at the centre of the establishment and growth of Crosspoint which has now helped many hundreds of people in the town.

“Whenever there was a group that was trying to make things better in Westbury, Jonathan was likely to be there and, if he had to, he’d run it until he could encourage others to take over.

“He has a special skill for encouraging others to volunteer. He approaches quietly and you usually don’t even notice what is happening until you have agreed that there is an issue, that something ought to be done and you then find that you are doing it.

“Amongst those who volunteer Jonathan was recognised as being special; when we swap notes about our activities, we’d find that everybody worked with Jonathan on something – which meant that he volunteered for practically everything.

“Of course, he also ran a team ministry and keeping a church community together, running a team and training curates is not a part-time job. He looked after his parishioners. If you were ill, had a family crisis or were just struggling, Jonathan would appear at your door and you knew you had a friend. He was always available to help anyone who just wanted to talk – it didn’t matter whether you were a member of his church.

“As if he didn’t have enough to do, he was also appointed Rural Dean of Heytesbury which gave him a busy role overseeing and assisting parishes from Westbury down to Mere.

“Incredibly, he’d still find some time for walking his dogs, steam trains, family, singing and supporting hundreds of town events with his good humoured presence.

“We all wish Jonathan and his hard-working wife, Sandra a happy and much deserved retirement. Jonathan is a humble man and he will hate this commentary. He has been an inspiration and so many of us are immensely grateful for his time in our town.”

Jonathan’s successor will be announced in the coming months.