Rev James Hair – Honorary Assistant Priest

Part of my childhood was spent in Portchester, attending the old Wicor School and the Church of the Ascension in White Hart Lane.

After training for ministry at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, I was ordained deacon in 1972 and priest in 1973, serving my title in the parish of St John, Fishponds, Bristol.

My parish ministry has been at Fishponds, Bushey (Hertfordshire) Shanklin and Lake (Isle of Wight) and then Totton (Southampton). Until recently I’ve been helping out at St Michael and All Angels, Paulsgrove, but have now returned to my roots at St Mary’s.

I worked for a time as a nursing assistant at Knowle Psychiatric hospital, and during my curacy did occasional cover for the chaplain at Glenside Psychiatric hospital.

An interest in psychology led me to think about the connections between religious experience, mental health and also mental ill health. This came together when I became a mental health chaplain for the NHS in 1997. It was a steep learning curve but I had found my niche, working in acute, rehab, secure units, community teams and also Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

Spiritually and theologically I can locate my ancestors and soul friends. My roots are in the Catholic Reformed tradition of the Anglican Church: Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, George Herbert, John Donne; and in the twentieth century Eric Mascall and Austin Farrar.

Another stream has been the influence of Via Negativa: (a philosophical approach to theology which asserts that no finite concepts or attributes can be adequately used of God, but only negative terms) – Cloud of Unknowing, John Main and John Freeman., the Desert Fathers going back to Abbott Anthony. Writers on the edge of the Roman Catholic Church: Ronald Rolheiser, Richard Rohr, Bede Griffiths and Thomas Merton.

The result has been an oddball, deeply committed to Jesus through the Sacraments, Daily Office and contemplation. This resulted in my becoming an Oblate member of the Benedictine monastery of Our Lady and St John in Alton Abbey.

As I say, a quirky odd ball and a work in process (as we all are, Praise God!)