After graduating St Augustine’s in 1990, Gaynor pursued her own interpretation of her calling – from establishing spiritual retreats to being the first woman priest in her small parish.

“My self-supporting ministry started in fairly conventional fashion as an Assistant Curate.

“Having hailed from a Church where collaborative ministry had at one time been the norm, it’s been a challenge coping with the varying opportunities to work collaboratively over the years.”

Establishing a spiritual retreat

“I completed my ordination training at St Augustine’s in 1990. Five years later, I moved to Wales. There, we offered from our home a small place of retreat providing what we called ‘Time Apart’. “Wales having experienced the slowing down and healing enabled by the open spaces, we intended to run Rambling Retreats in the hills of Central Wales.

“Things rarely turn out as one intends and we had to amend and develop our ideas. By various steps that included us accepting bed and breakfast guests as well as people on retreat, we arrived at a pattern which lasted seventeen years, welcoming people from all over the world.”

Creating unique retreat experiences

“We have always regarded whatever number came on our programmed retreats as being the right number.

“In our early days, we scheduled a week’s walking retreat but only had one person book; a very busy nun from a large retreat house. I phoned to advise her of the situation and she said she would come anyway. At the end of the week, she said the space and the peace had actually been just what she needed.

“Another time we had three people coming on a programmed retreat, plus an additional person who was doing their own thing. At the last minute, two pulled out but the remaining person decided to come anyway. She particularly wanted to go to the Centre for Alternative Technology. The other person decided to come too, and later told us that that experience with us had changed their life.”

A flexible approach to ministry

“You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much mention of ‘Church’.

“When we first came here, the place we bought was in a group of parishes whose vicar was firmly against women priests. I worked initially as a deacon but when women were priested in Wales, there was much upheaval in our tiny parish for a while.

“I was at the same time licensed to the Deanery for several years, filling in when needed all over a Deanery almost the size of Southwark.”

Women priests and the art of collaborative ministry

“So, the strands of my ministry have run in parallel rather than been interwoven. Things have changed: women priests are now welcomed.

“There are, however, still many fundamental issues to be resolved around self-supporting ministry (and the laity) and the art of collaborative ministry.”

–        Gaynor Tyler, St Augustine’s alumni (graduated, 1990)