The Reverend Douglas Wren was licensed as priest in charge of Tregony and minister with oversight responsibilities for the Roseland peninsula at a ceremony conducted by the Bishop of St Germans at St Cuby’s Church on Thursday 4th May.

He has been appointed to lead and pioneer new forms of church ministry across the Roseland peninsula, that part of the Duchy much loved for its glorious countryside, beautiful beaches and picturesque villages, just east of Truro.

Born in Lambeth, and brought up in Basingstoke, Douglas met his future wife at sixth form college. She was attending a conservative evangelical church at the time. He recalls that he started going along to church with her as a teenager for the profoundly spiritual reason that, as he puts it, he “fancied her“.

Yet he feels that even then he had experienced some sense of his calling. Indeed, he recalls he had flirted with the idea of ordination even at that early age.

“But it dawned on me that I was going to church, but I didn’t have a living faith,” he says. “So I shelved that idea.”

He went on to study philosophy at Lancaster, and decided he wanted to join the police. His application however faltered at the final hurdle, the medical screening, where he was bluntly informed that a family history of asthma was enough to end his ambition to serve in Her Majesty’s constabulary.

“So that came to a juddering halt, and I left university not knowing what I was going to do.”

He ended up getting a job with an organisation called Mission England. They were the people responsible for bringing the legendary American evangelist Billy Graham to Britain for major stadium appearances in the early 1980s.

Douglas was employed as personal assistant to the national director. He remembers it was a grandly “hifalutin” title but feels that he was probably just making it up as he went along.

“It was great fun and very formative,” he says. “I was very privileged to be working alongside people doing some heroic and impressive stuff.”

It was then that he started to consider ordination again.

And so, in 1985, he began his training at Trinity College in Bristol. Future archbishop George Carey was principal there at the time.


Douglas was ordained as a deacon in 1988. His first position was at St Mary’s in the Cheshire town of Nantwich. He recalls that this was very far from the kind of conservative evangelical church that he’d been used to.

“It was a parish which tried reasonably successfully to cover all the bases,” he says. “I learned a huge amount there.”

He served the second half of his curacy at the Church of St Philip and St James – known locally as “Pip & Jim’s” – at Chatham in Kent.

“The church had been built out of breeze blocks. People often confused it with a telephone exchange.”

Pip & Jim’s was rather more “charismatic-evangelical” than Nantwich had been. He says he also learned a lot there.

This was followed by his first incumbency, in a village called West Kingsdown. Then, still staying in Kent, he moved to the parish of Spledhurst, where he served as rector for more than two decades. In total he spent 32 years in the Diocese of Rochester, eventually being appointed Rural Dean for Tunbridge Wells.

“All my incumbency ministry has been in rural villages,” he observes. “I wouldn’t have expected that, growing up in Basingstoke. As they say, if you want to put a smile on God’s face, try telling Him your plans. He’s very good at surprising us.”

There were more surprises to come. Last summer, Douglas took a few months’ sabbatical. He walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. At the same time, he found himself greatly influenced by a book called The Matter with Things, a study in neuroscientific philosophy by the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist. He also visited a number of churches which were, in his words, doing church differently.

“I met a lot of people, spoke with them, listened to them – mainly listened.”

By the end of his sabbatical he was convinced of two things.

“The first was that the Gospel is still effective. People and communities can be – and are – changed by God’s love. The second thing was this: to connect with people nowadays – especially those people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious – we have to do fresh things.

“That doesn’t mean abandoning all the things we’ve done in the past. We do all we can to make church-as-we-know-it express the Gospel to people. But we should also explore new ways of being Christian, of drawing people to Christ.”

It was at that point that he realised he had reached the end of his time in Kent.

“I’d done all I could. My contribution had come to its conclusion.”

St Cuby’s Church, Tregony

Having found himself drawn to new kinds of Christian ministry, it was then that the possibility of coming to Cornwall came his way. He’d gone online and searched for opportunities involving pioneer ministry. The notice for the position in the Roseland peninsula had almost leapt out of the screen at him.

“I really want to encourage and facilitate the work of pioneer ministry,” he says. “That’s something that really excites me about this role.”

In addition to his service as vicar of St Cuby’s Church in Tregony, the scope of Douglas’s ministry now includes the communities of St Just, St Mawes, Gerrans, Portloe, Philleigh, Ruan Lanihorne and Veryan.

He observes that his innovative new role in the Roseland peninsula reminds him of what St Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the need to equip people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up in the world.

“It’s not about me doing everything, but about empowering, encouraging and supporting others in their ministry,” he explains. “My role is to ensure that every church in the Roseland is supported and confident, and has the most appropriate kind of local leadership.”

He’s enthusiastic about collaborating with a broad range different people in the Church. He emphasizes that he’s always enjoyed working alongside lay ministers and has come to rely on such enormously valuable partnerships.

“What I’m working towards in the Roseland is establishing a community of ministers, lay and ordained, so that we can learn from one another, rejoice with one another, weep with one another, hold one another up, and encourage one another,” he says.

This is clearly for Douglas Wren an act of devotion underpinned by a profound faith. Yet he says that he still finds it difficult to define that faith.

“It’s like asking what my marriage means to me. It’s my whole life and breath. It’s about relationships, about growing in the knowledge that God loves us deeply and that this love is transformatory.”

His ministry, he repeatedly stresses, is about those relationships – relationships with God, with people in the church, and in service to the wider world.


He jokes that he’s not the kind of believer who’s on cloud nine all the time. He compares his experience of faith to the story of Jacob’s wrestle with the angel in the Old Testament.

“There are times when it’s a struggle,” he says. “It’s a very intimate process. And I know I’m very much a work of progress with God.”

He describes his own spirituality as pragmatic.

“If it works, do it,” he says. “God doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all. You have to connect with people’s spirituality in a whole variety of ways. In terms of styles of worship, I’m very happy to promote anything that brings people closer to a living God.”

A thoughtful and humble man, Douglas speaks with great energy of his particular joy and excitement at coming to Cornwall.

“We’ve been trying to get out and about and get around as much as possible,” he says. “We’ve already got lost in several places in the Roseland!

“People have been so very friendly and welcoming. That’s really lovely. There are some challenges but I’m really excited about getting into them.

“It’s so exciting to see God at work in communities, in people’s lives. It truly makes it all worthwhile.”