There are few places so imbued with natural tranquility as the Church of St Philleigh in the depths of the Roseland peninsula.

The church stands at the heart of the smallest parish in the Diocese, a village of just 135 souls.

For the last eight years  Kay Robinson has led worship at this small rural church, where she also serves as churchwarden, safeguarding lead and representative to the Powder Deanery Synod. She’s also due shortly to be commissioned as lay minister to the parish.

It was nine years ago that Kay and her husband Phil first stumbled upon this haven of calm, while holidaying in the area. Phil was keen on retiring to Cornwall, but Kay was having none of it, feeling herself to be happily settled in Berkshire, where they’d raised their family and had been actively involved in their church community for nearly three decades.

But Phil had seen a property which he’d liked in Philleigh and she’d grudgingly joined him at the viewing with a local estate agent. It was then that she’d thought to look into the church.

“I came up to the altar,” she recalls. “It was so calm and peaceful. I had this incredibly intense feeling, a voice telling me that this was where we had to be.”

She found Phil outside the church and told him what had happened. He suggested they had a drink at the pub next door.

That was in May 2014. Three months later, they moved into their new home.

They’d managed, in remarkably rapid succession, to make an offer on the bungalow in Philleigh, put their house in Berkshire on the market and even find a buyer for it.

“I remember praying – Father, if you really want us to come to Cornwall, please send us a cash buyer fast!” she laughs. “I’ve learnt that God has a tremendous sense of humour. He certainly took me out of my comfort zone. He can lead us anywhere. It’s all about going where He wants you to go.”

A life of faith

She and Phil had met while they were both teaching at the same secondary school in Berkshire.

Kay had been born and brought up in the West Midlands. Her father was Anglican and her mother’s side of the family were staunch members of the Salvation Army.

“The expectation was that I’d become a Sally Army officer or minister,” she says. “But I wasn’t really ready for it at the time.”

She nevertheless credits those early experiences as influential upon her own ministry.

“My training started there,” she explains. “We were all encouraged to lead Sunday School groups and services. I think it’s so important to encourage young people to take on those kinds of responsibilities. The more we can get them actively involved in what we do, the better. It allows them to see that they’re such a vital part of the church.”

Kay and Phil are very focused upon the intergenerational appeal of their faith. They now run three different sorts of Sunday services at Philleigh Church each month. These include monthly “Messy Church” sessions which are particularly targeted at the young people who attend a local livery, as well as their parents.

Each Christmas, as part of the village’s popular annual carol service, those young people also perform a nativity play – with live farmyard animals – in the barn next to the church, drawing around 100 people from the area to share the story of the birth of Christ.

“It’s a bit like Dibley, isn’t it?” laughs Kay. “People round here sometimes call the village Phibley!”

Serving the community

Kay and Phil run an informal monthly service at the church which attracts people from across the peninsula. Philleigh also hosts a more traditional Holy Communion each month.

“We try to adapt our services to accommodate the needs of our community,” she says. “We’re very much part of the community. We’re here to serve the community. It’s really important that we meet our community’s diverse needs.”

She’s especially grateful for his support of this work to the Reverend Douglas Wren, who moved to the area a few months ago as oversight minister for the Roseland.

“He’s great,” she says. “A real breath of fresh air. He’s trying to bring the Roseland’s churches together, and is already being very successful in that. He’s very encouraging and very supportive.”

She’s also very thankful to the people of Philleigh for the warmth with which they’ve welcomed her and her husband to their parish.

“It’s been challenging at times, but it’s very special here,” she says. “It’s a place of great calm and love. We really feel that God’s moving in this place, in this small community and across the Roseland. I know we shouldn’t be amazed by what God can do, but I sometimes can’t believe I’m here!”