THE role of a community church minister in Axminster came under scrutiny when a town councillor wanted to know who had appointed her.
Councillor Sue Spiller apologised if her questions to the Reverend Kay d’Albertanson came across as rude, but said people in the town wanted to know.
The discussion arose when the Reverend d’Albertanson attended a meeting of Axminster Town Council to ask questions about an issue on the agenda regarding the Pippins building.
But Councillor Spiller was keen to find out more about the her role, and began her inquiry by asking: “In your email you describe yourself as a community-based minister. Could you describe that? A number of people in the town have asked me what that means and how you got that title.”
The Reverend d’Albertanson replied: “I’m not a church-based minister, I’m based in the community. I’m what is called a pioneer minister.
“I trained as a general minister when I was at bible college and, after period of a year’s research here in Axminster, that [community minister] is the role I find myself in.”
The reverend explained that she had been asked to lead a research project by churches in the area into what Axminster needs.
The Pippins building, and its future use, and working with the police to run and develop the RISE hub (a drug and alcohol misuse recovery service) were among needs identified, which is why she remained in Axminster.
The Reverend d’Albertanson elaborated by saying: “We look at needs of the community and set up projects around these needs, so you’ll find more and more community-based people like myself.”
Councillor Spiller asked: “But do you actually belong to a particular church?”
The Reverend d’Albertanson began to give examples of what she does but the Mayor of Axminster, Councillor Jeremy Walden, who chaired the meeting, interrupted by saying: “I think perhaps what Councillor Spiller is asking is of what denomination are you a minister?”
The Reverend d’Albertanson replied: “I hate all that, what brand…”
After being further pushed by Councillor Spiller, she said she was a Baptist.
Councillor Spiller continued her line of questioning, saying: “This may sound very silly but there are a lot of people in this town who see what is going on at Pippins and they hear your name, but they don’t understand how you came to be there, who appointed you.
“I’m sorry if that sounds rude, it is not meant to be, but as a councillor I have to say I don’t understand.
“I understand the work you are doing but I don’t understand how you came to be there, who put you there, who gave you the authority to call yourself the community minister.”
The Rev d’Albertanson explained that there were six churches in the area and added: “They called me to do a year’s worth of research in the town. After the research there were these outcomes, so that is how I came to be based at Pippins.”
Councillor Spilled asked: “So why did you pick Axminster, there are lots of Baptist churches?”
The Reverend replied: “Because the big man told me to come here.”
Councillor Spiller was not satisfied with the answer and further pushed: “I understand that is your faith, but that is not an answer I can give to people – there is Lyme Regis, there is Seaton.”
Councillor Douglas Hull said he too had been approached by people wanting to know more about the community minister’s role.
Councillor Walden felt it was time to sum up the matter and said: “I understand some reticence but you have to understand that if you are acting as a community minister, the community would like to know certain things about you – and perhaps you could present that through one of the local newspapers.”
The Reverend d’Albertanson referred to a Pulman’s Weekly News story from earlier this year, and Councillor Walden said: “It [a new story] would help to refresh it, if I may suggest so.”
The story referred to was published in January and explained that the Reverend d’Albertanson was an associate minister at Lyme Regis Baptist Church who had been appointed to lead the Hope Axminster Research Project.
Her task was to look at what the churches were and were not doing in Axminster, and the needs of the community.
She came to work closely with the town council (which manages the Pippins building) as part of a partnership with Axminster Churches Together.
The Reverend d’Albertanson did not wish to comment further at this stage, but will talk about her role in a future interview.