Article Included with the permission of the Spalding Guardian Newspaper.

Tom Hughes - 27/9/2007



Father Sibley loves history and Rioja


FATHER Jonathan Sibley is the parish priest for St Mary’s in Long Sutton and acting rural dean for Elloe East.

He lives with his wife Jeanne in Long Sutton and the couple have two children, Peter (13) and Shona (11).

Have you always lived in Long Sutton? - “We came here six years ago.

“We moved from just outside Reading near the headquarters of the police training college at Sulhamstead and one of my responsibilities was as police chaplain.

“Originally both Jeanne and I are from Bristol.”

What are your interests? - “I love local history and trains.

“I also dig test pits for archaeology and am a fan of Time Team.

“It is very nice to have some of the Time Team as patrons for the South Aisle Roof appeal.”

What is your passion? - “Working with people and doing things for them.

“I had a gap year where I worked with the Mission to Seafarers, which shows the Christian Gospel to the seafarers around the world.

“I worked in Antwerp and in Dunquerke.

“I was also asked to set up a whole new centre in Avonmouth and am now an honorary chaplain.

“The organisation does a lot of important work and we forget how important seafarers are to our economy.

“It is a very down to earth and practical organisation.”

What is your greatest regret? - “That my father died 13 years ago, so my daughter never knew him.”

What was your most embarrassing experience? - “When I was a brand new curate there was a fathers’ race at school sports day and I was press ganged into it.

“I was wearing a pair of sandals and half way through I tripped and somersaulted while the race continued around me.

“I learnt that the important thing is to keep on smiling as I came in last.”

What would you like to be remembered for? - “As being a good dad and for spreading the word of God.”

What is your ambition? - “I would really like to do an MA in medieval stained glass and wall paintings.”

What is your greatest achievement? - “I don’t naturally take to computers, but I completed modules in Word, Excel and emails.”

What is your pet hate? - “Liquorice.

“Never give me Pernod to drink - it was a bit tough living in France.

“Also people who nick the lead off church roofs.”



 What was your happiest experience? - “Marrying my wife Jeanne.

 “We have been married for 26 years.

“We met between going to college and me training for the ministry.

“We were working for the Church Commissioners in Millbank, London.”

What was your saddest experience? - “Again, it is the death of my father.

“He was a great guy and always worth listening to.

“He was one of the first helicopter designers and designed the whole of the Westlands helicopter family back in the 1950s.”

What do you like most about South Holland? - “I like the people and the landscape of the area with its skies and sun sets.

“It’s unchanging.

“I have an original Burgess print of St Mary’s, which is a Norman and early English building.

“The whole of the interior dates from 1170 and the tower, which is the tallest wooden spire in Europe, was finished in 1200.

“Monks were teaching here from 1170 and the school room was built in around 1300.

“It is quite an amazing building and I am privileged to be here.”

Did you always want to be a priest? - “It was something I felt called to do, though I tried to put it off.

“I worked in the library service and the merchant navy and I also wanted to be a lawyer at one point.”

What were you like at school? - “Like most priests I could be naughty at times.”

Where else in the world would you like to live? - “Cornwall.

“We have been there at different times throughout the year and have got to know what it’s like as a realistic place, not just for summer holidays.”

What is your pet hate? - “I hated animals as a teenager.

“Now we have three cats, a dog, we’ve had four guinea pigs and six rabbits.

“God has a sense of humour.

“Now I’m glad we’ve had all those animals.

“My wife likes animals and I’ve learned to be flexible and tolerant.”




Who do you most admire? - “A guy called Rev Cannon Jimmy Wilson-Hughes has influenced me.

“He was the head of the Mission to Seafarers in London who was a visionary and an inspiring preacher of the Gospel.

“But he was also a down to earth man who spoke his mind and had common sense and wisdom about the way the Gospel and the Church moves the world.

“He didn’t care what people thought and when you went in to see him he would be sitting in shorts and a singlet smoking - but he achieved a lot.”

Have you ever had a Road to Damascus experience? - “When I felt compelled in my 20s to explore the process for exploring my vocation, which was partially unexpected.

“Also when I went to the Holy Land as a theological student.

“It brought the Bible to life even more by visiting the places where the events happen.

“Once you have been to the Holy Land you read the Bible differently - it is an amazing place.”

Are you proud to be English? - “I think it’s a great country with a great tradition and our views of life and philosophy are very important.

“We have influenced many democracies and governments around the world.

“In the merchant navy I used to ask people from all over the world where they would like to live and almost to a man they said the best place was Britain.”

*What is your favourite tipple? - “I like real ale and a good Rioja.”

Do you support a football team? - “I enjoy watching my son play football.

“I also like golf, badminton and table tennis.”

What is your motto? - “Let’s have a go.”

Write your own epitaph - “Oops, there IS a God - let’s get busy.”