Melrose minister bows out for new start in Bermuda

The Rev Alistair Bennett, minister of Melrose Parish Church since 1984, is “relishing the challenge” of taking up a new charge 3,000 miles away in Bermuda.

The 63-year-old was the sole nominee on Sunday for the vacant charge at Christ Church in Warwick – one of the oldest Church of Scotland parishes on the British island territory.

After conducting two services to packed congregations, his call was unanimously endorsed by the worshippers.

He and his wife Judi, who have three grown-up children, will leave the Borders in May to start their new life on the sun-kissed North Atlantic outpost, famous for its sandy beaches.

The couple spent four days in Warwick last month, touring the parish and visiting the church, first established in 1719, and its manse.

“It’s a wonderfully diverse and culturally rich community, quite Americanised, and the climate is an obvious attraction, although during our visit we had all sorts of weather, including a violent thunderstorm,” said Mr Bennett.

“The interim moderator at Christ Church made it clear he wanted a commitment from the new minister that he would stay for four years, because it’s a very important time for the church in the run-up to its 300th anniversary.

“I have no idea why I was approached for the job, apart from my experience in the ministry, but I’m relishing the challenge.

“The four-year tenure suits me and Judi because it means I can, if I wish, return to Melrose when I retire.

Under Church of Scotland rules, a retiring minister must leave his parish to clear the way for his successor so by going to Bermuda I can return without ruffling too many feathers.”

Mr Bennett will formally announce his new calling at services in Bowden and at Melrose this Sunday.

“Melrose, the Borders and the people will always be dear to me and I’ve spent 32 very happy years here,” he told The Southern. “It will be quite a wrench to leave.”

Mr Bennett was moderator of the Presbytery of Melrose and Peebles in 1994 and served for many years as a non-executive member of Borders Health Board.

In 2010, his long and distinguished service to the Kirk was acknowledged when he was appointed a Queen’s Chaplain.