The new parish priest for St Mary’s, Liss, knows a thing or two about church buildings – one of her previous churches was rebuilt from scratch following a huge fire.
The Rev Clare Welham, the former part-time vicar of the benefice of Bishop’s Sutton, Ropley and West Tisted in Winchester diocese, is the new priest-in-charge at Liss.
Clare’s new role will also involve being a champion for ‘Growing Faith’ across churches in the Petersfield area, helping to make spiritual connections between schools, churches and homes.
Clare oversaw the rebuilding of St Peter’s Church in Ropley, which was destroyed by fire back in 2014. Worshippers celebrated its reopening last summer after a mammoth £4 million project.
Clare is married to James and has two children, Toby and Hester.
She said: “At 19 years old, while reading theology and having a lot of fun at university in Durham, I felt God calling me to be a priest. I did what most of us do when God asks us to do something tricky – I ran away and decided he probably didn’t mean it.
“Fast forward 11 years and I was a religious studies teacher and lay chaplain, happily married to James who I had met at Durham, living at the boarding school where we both worked and holding my first child, Toby, in my arms – and I knew I could run away no longer.
“Wife, mother and teacher were all very real parts of my vocation, but there was still a huge, suddenly glaringly obvious gap. I was meant to be doing something else too – perhaps God actually had meant it after all.”
She trained for ordained ministry on a regional course in Cheltenham. She was ordained in 2012 in Gloucester Cathedral and spent two years as a curate in the parish of Cainscross on the edge of Stroud. Her third year of curacy, alongside a school chaplaincy, was in Christ Church, Harrogate, because of a change of job for James.
She began her first incumbency at Ropley, Bishop’s Sutton and West Tisted in January 2017, over two years after the fire at St Peter’s.
“I’m really looking forward to being in Liss,” said Clare.
“There seems to be such an effective ministry team already, and I have a real longing to know what God has in store for this place next.
“I’m also excited with the deanery aspect of the role, as Growing Faith is a great initiative. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s happening with children and young people across the Petersfield deanery already and building on those links.
“Although I’ll always be a town girl at heart, I’ve loved rural ministry and the people and places with whom I’ve lived and worked.”