David Gwatkin – Chaplain
David is the seventh generation of Gwatkin to farm in the Welsh Marches. His background and his personal experience make him all too aware of the often overwhelming pressures farmers, their families and communities can face.
“Like farming, being a chaplain is often about leaving the comfort of our church, our home behind and getting out there, getting muddy, going where the need is. Being involved in agriculture makes me understand the pressures of time. We’re all quite proud and self-sufficient people. Picking up the phone to ask for help or to flag up our vulnerabilities can be a very difficult thing to do.”
David sees part of his role as building face to face relationships with those he seeks to support on the ground. For him, ministry might take place over a fence in a field, a corner of the livestock market or in the cabin of a tractor. Liaising and collaborating with other organisations both locally and nationally is of great importance to David’s role enabling him to signpost people to appropriate organisations and assist practically as well as pastorally.
An area of particular concern for David is mental health issues affecting rural youth. Having suffered with depression in his early twenties, David is cognisant of how mental illness, left undiagnosed and untreated can easily escalate and the efficacy of a pair of listening ears at hand or available “where you are and when you need them.”
David works with the Farming Community Network for Herefordshire. He is co-chair of the Agricultural Chaplain’s Association and is a past National Young Farmers Federation Personal Development Team member. He worked on the Rural Plus Project in 2014 and through Young Farmers helped raise awareness and educate rural youth about stress related illnesses and the dangers of depression.
Nick Read – Chaplain
Nick is a self-supporting Anglican Priest licensed by Hereford Diocese as an Associate Agricultural Chaplain. His paid employment is Director of the Bulmer Foundation, a sustainable development charity based in Hereford. Before ordination he worked for the National Farmers Union and chaired a national working party dealing with farm stress and suicide out of which grew a number of local initiatives that he helped establish including the Gloucestershire Farming Friends. Eventually he took on a national role as founder-Director of the Rural Stress Information Network, a charity that helped to co-ordinate and resource local action. He has a background in agricultural and rural policy and chaired the West Midlands Rural Affairs Forum for five years and an English-Welsh Cross-border Strategic Forum. His role with Borderlands combines this strategic knowledge with direct pastoral support.
“Through the networks that I belong to I am able to access confidential help and support for farmers in need. Recent examples have included working with the Rural Payments Agency to assist farmers who have had difficulties accessing their basic payment.”
Nick was full-time agricultural chaplain during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 and assisted with over 150 applications to the Addington Fund securing small grants for farmers suffering cash flow difficulties.
“The church rallied round and did amazing things to keep in touch with farmers during the crisis. The Bishop (of Hereford) and I wrote to everyone that we knew had had animals culled during the outbreak.”
He is a member of the Agricultural Chaplains Association. Locally he sits on Herefordshire Business Board, the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, Herefordshire Local Nature Partnership, Herefordshire Sustainable Food and Tourism Partnership and is chair of the Wye Nutrient Management Plan Stakeholders Group, comprising the key organisations that will deliver improved water quality in the Wye River Catchment.
Sue Williams – Chaplain
Being a farmer’s daughter and with her brother hill farming, Sue has always been concerned for the welfare of farming communities. She is also a bereavement visitor with proven listening skills vital to the chaplaincy role. Sue foresees online registration as an unwelcome demand on farmers’ already limited time. Sue is keen to be a Borderlands presence at livestock markets.
“As a farmer’s daughter, I understand the loneliness and isolation farmers endure from time to time, this is one of my main concerns. I want to be able to listen to and walk alongside farmers and their families who ask for our help.”
Sue works with the Farmers Community Network for Herefordshire and is a member of the Agricultural Chaplains Association. She is also a licensed Lay Reader and Diocesan Pastoral Network Facilitator.
Mike Jones – Chaplain
A dairy farmer for over thirty-five years, Mike Jones now retired, brings a wealth of understanding to the Borderlands table. Add to this his experience in Social Care working with children with special needs. Mike works with farmers who have been referred to him principally by the Farming Community Network. Some of the farmers may be suffering from severe depression borne largely out of financial stress and the accompanying family breakdown.
“You’re supporting people right at the end, they’re really, really depressed and down. I think it’s a real privilege to be trusted by these people. They’ve rung up, you are asked to go into their homes and asked to support them.”
Building a rapport with personnel at agencies like FCN and DEFRA, as well as chasing late single payments, Mike stays informed of new regulatory developments and what these require of farmers. With online registration imminent Mike is encouraging farmers to attend designated meetings to keep themselves abreast of the changes. This is particularly pertinent with older farmers who are unfamiliar with computer technology.
“Having farmed myself and changed direction in life, I know that there is hope and happiness and a future. I love to support farmers facing the same dilemmas I did.”
Mike is a member of the Agricultural Chaplains Association.
David Dutton – Chaplain
Agricultural Contractor David Dutton sees his chaplaincy role at Borderlands as an opportunity to bring a “Christian slant to what I do”. A former farm manager, David was already supporting farmers through Shropshire Rural Support when Borderlands secretary David Jones approached him to join the chaplaincy. Born and raised on a farm, David is accustomed to the farming lifestyle and the uncertainty that often accompanies it.
Having had experience of two foot and mouth epidemics and the ongoing agonies brought about by TB, he has witnessed up close the devastation and stresses that farming crises cause and the hardships and problems that are not immediately obvious to non-farming people.
“I volunteered to work with the chaplaincy because I have a lifelong involvement in farming and understand farming people. We come from the same starting place and talk the same language. I like the thought of supporting farmers in trouble. I think that’s where my strengths are.”
To date David’s chaplaincy has been mainly in telephone support. He is eager to spearhead Borderlands’ expansion in the Northern areas of Shropshire, cultivating partnerships between farming families, churches and crisis support agencies.
David is a member of the Agricultural Chaplains Association and a Worship Leader.