What Lesley did next: a tale of marshalling car races, a huge pile of novels and rum punch in the sun?
With her neat, dark hair, black clerical shirt and penchant for a colourful jacket, the Revd Canon Lesley Walker cuts a distinctive figure.
Many people will know her from her 10 years as Rector of Meneage or ensuing stint as the Rural Dean of Kerrier; many more will have come into contact with her as the Bishop’s Chaplain.
Those who have taken time to get to know Lesley will be aware of her love of an annual holiday in the sunshine of Barbados, working her way through a huge pile of novels … not to mention the occasional rum punch.
Motor sports marshall
And a few of her colleagues and friends here in the Diocese of Truro may even know that she has an unusual hobby – as a registered marshall for the Motor Sports Association.
But later this month Lesley will pick up the Lis Escop telephone for the last time, as she steps into a new chapter of her life: retirement.
Her approach to this next stage in life is characteristically relaxed: she hasn’t set herself goals in advance, and doesn’t have a clear idea of what it will hold for her. But this is not a source of stress, as she is happy to see what God has in store for her.
Because Lesley’s life has not been punctuated by what others might consider the usual milestones.
One of the defining moments of her life came when she was just 28. Her husband, Peter, suffered from a life-limiting heart condition he had had since birth.
“It didn’t stop us from doing anything,” said Lesley. “But in 1982, just after Christmas, he was poorly. He had picked up a bug and had been in a bad way all week, and on the Friday night I said he needed to go and see the doctor. The doctor saw him and sent him straight to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and he died that night from an embolism.”
Lesley was 28, their son David nine and their daughter, Amy, just a week off her fourth birthday.
In the years since their wedding, Lesley and Peter had become increasingly involved in their local church community, and it was to provide Lesley with a great deal of support and help when she found herself suddenly alone.
“When we were planning Peter’s funeral, we chose God Moves in a Mysterious Way, and that has been very much what life has been about,” said Lesley.
Lesley realised she would need to become financially independent, and so decided to go back to studying and take some A levels – so at the age of 28 she talked her way into becoming the eldest pupil at the local Roman Catholic secondary school sixth form, studying maths, chemistry and biology. But while it was a lot of fun and Lesley was quickly accepted by her fellow students, she also discovered that exams were not her forte. She left after two years having had a wonderful time and learned lots, but with only one ‘A’ level to her name.
Vocation to ministry
But she had had time to think and to decide what she wanted to do with her life – and that was to explore her vocation to ministry.
That in itself was far from simple at the time, as this was before women could be ordained even as deacons and she was living in the Diocese of Chichester in the days of Bishop Eric Kemp – who was keenly opposed to women becoming priests.
However, the suffragan Bishop of Horsham, Colin Docker, was incredibly supportive, and helped Lesley to be accepted for training at Salisbury and Wells Theological College.
After graduating, Lesley was released by the Chichester Diocese. By this time women could be ordained as deacons and so Lesley secured her curacy within the Oakdale Team Ministry, in Dorset, under the Revd Michael Perham – who would go on to become Bishop of Gloucester. She was ordained as a deacon on October 1st, 1988, in Salisbury Cathedral.
Although women were not to be allowed to enter the priesthood until 1994, Lesley moved to Hereford Diocese in 1992 as a team vicar, working closely with the team’s curate to provide Eucharistic worship for her two parishes.
Finally, on May 7th, 1994, Lesley was one of the first 15 women to be priested within the Diocese of Hereford.
By 2003 she was ready for a change, and applied for and was appointed to the role as vice-principal of the ordained ministry training programme within the Diocese of Canterbury.
Unfortunately, she had not long started the job before she broke her leg badly and struggled to continue to work with very limited mobility and not being able to drive for more than a year. During this time the scheme was reorganised and Lesley’s position became redundant.
Quite used to God’s mysterious machinations, Lesley accepted this and went to work for a temp agency to give her the time and space she needed to make decisions. She gained PTO and was doing some work within the local parishes too. It was during this time that she went onto the Crown Appointments list. Cut a long story short, and Lesley moved to Cornwall in 2007 and was licensed within the Diocese of Truro in May that year.
Lesley thoroughly enjoyed her role in the parishes on the Lizard, and also as rural dean, but after 10 years again decided it was time for a change, and Bishop Tim offered her a temporary role as a part-time chaplain. He was away on sabbatical at the time, but wanted Lesley to work half a week at Lis Escop, supporting Bishop Chris who was trying to cover for Bishop Tim as well as carrying out his own job. On his return Bishop Tim offered a full-time move to Lis Escop, but with the announcement of his move to become Bishop at Lambeth this was on a temporary contract.
That contract has now come to an end, and as she is now of retirement age, Lesley has to decide what to do next. But she is not rushing.
Holidays in the sun
Her daughter Amy is marrying her long-term partner, Dan, early in July, and they are looking for a property in Spain. Lesley’s sister, has also announced that she fancies a move to Spain. So there are plenty of different things going on and lots of opportunities for holidays in the sun.
“I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know that God Moves in a Mysterious Way. If anybody had told me at the age of 18 what my life held in store for me, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. But as long as I can earn enough money to ensure I get my annual holiday in Barbados, then I will be happy!”