Local Face: Sally Prendergast

I’ve been active in Wendover for over a year now, as the Curate for St Marys and St Michaels since June 2019 when I was ordained Deacon (a necessary role for a year or so before becoming a Priest). By the time you read this (Covid willing!) I should be ordained Priest on 19th September.

My life has been eventful and complex. I was born an only child in Kent and raised in rural Dorset. My Mum died when I was 9, so I spent many hours drawing, sewing and wandering the fields and lanes. To me, churches were scary, dark and forbidding places and I only felt safe when the entire farming community gathered for harvest, Easter and Christmas. The local church was tiny and in the middle of a field, so wellies were essential – swapped for shoes in the porch, which was lined with rows of black and green Dunlops!

I left home at 18 and went to art college which was not the joyous experience I hoped for, so I found a retail job to keep me solvent. I followed a boyfriend to Nottingham, eventually getting a job at the Automobile Association as a telephonist and I volunteered to do travel reports on local BBC radio, where I met my first husband. I became a receptionist at the radio station, and trained to present shows, only to find that the manager considered women incapable and undesirable as presenters! We moved to Coventry, where the local BBC manager was happy to employ me and my husband as presenters… the perfect job for someone who was always told at school to stop chattering.

Sadly I was made redundant and we relocated to Lancashire for 18 months, living on the top of a windy hill in an old farmhouse. It was a beautiful location, but very isolated and not a great place to bring a baby son into the world. I was glad when we moved south to Surrey, where my daughter was born. Once the children were at school, I trained to be a Probation Officer which I loved, being a naturally curious person and wanting to help others.

As so often happens, life is not as it may appear from the outside; I was suffering from depression, and the marriage was unhappy and crumbled. I was heavily involved with an organisation that teams pen-friends in the UK with people on death row in America, and one of my pen-friends told me about his Christian faith. ‘Not for me’, I responded… but God used him to plant seeds in my mind and heart. I visited him in prison, and the next day found myself walking into a church full of Oklahoman strangers, where I sat in floods of tears and yet felt completely at home.

Back in the UK, I began going to church. I was fortunate to be around inquisitive people who preferred exploration to dogma. I learned to wait patiently for the Holy Spirit, who’s there if only we hush up and listen!

Sally with Patrick and Harry, the English Setter

I met Patrick through a dating website, and I married my twinkly-eyed Irish arboriculturist in 2009. We moved to Eastcote where I went to St Lawrence Church and, to my shock, felt called by God to become an ordained minister. However the stress of a changing Probation Service and Patrick’s imminent redundancy forced us to move, and we landed in Great Kimble, surrounded by the countryside that we so love. Patrick is now self employed, and I work part time as a bespoke clerical stole-maker.

At St Nicholas’ Church, Great Kimble, I plucked up the courage to tell Revd Jan Henderson that I felt called to ordained ministry, and with her unstinting support I trained for local ministry. I’ll be spending three years or so as Curate in Wendover and Halton, working with Revd Sally Moring, Revd Nadine Rose and the team. My highlight so far was a 24 hour crochet marathon, with items and funds donated for internally displaced Syrian refugees – it seems that Wendover now has a crochet and knitting bug!