Chance meeting led to job offer.

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The Midweek Herald is to lose its only columnist, the Reverend Alastair McCollum - but it is for a good reason.

Following a chance meeting that led to a job offer, he and his family are moving to British Columbia to serve the Anglican Church of Canada.

Mr McCollum, the vicar of the Five Alive Mission community in the Axe Valley and the Rural Dean for Honiton, will deliver his last sermon on British soil on Sunday, June 23.

He will be leaving the UK on the anniversary of his ordination in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1996 and just a month before he and his wife, Jo, celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.

The couple have two children, Katherine, 11, and Jack, eight.

Mr McCollum, 43, who grew up in Honiton, one of 17 children, said: “I was going to stay here forever.

“Then, I did a funeral in Kilmington and the deceased’s son, who volunteers at the cathedral in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, told me a church in the city was looking for a rector and that he thought I would be the right person for the job.”

After four telephone interviews, including one with the Bishop of Victoria, and lengthy written assignments, Mr McCollum and his family were invited to travel to Canada.

The family made the journey last summer.

“It was obvious they were quite keen,” he said. “The kids loved it; they really liked the people and the people liked them.

“I took on the Rural Dean role because I thought we would be here for years. I wasn’t looking to move.”

Mr McCollum sought the advice of the Venerable David Gunn-Johnson, the former Rector of Colyton who is now the Archdeacon of Barnstaple, who indicated the move could be part of God’s plan.

Mr and Mrs McCollum will be moving to Canada on work visas and will be classed as ‘landed immigrants’. They are not emigrating.

He acknowledges that life at the vicarage in Kilmington has had some major plus points - his children’s school is just the other side of the garden hedge and the church is about 20 paces from his front door.

“You can become comfortable,” he said.

“But there is no such thing as a sleepy Devon village. There is always something going on.

“I wake up in the morning, look out of the window and think ‘Wow! It’s beautiful’.”

After almost five years in the Axe Valley, the McCollums are an integral part of the community.

“I will miss the people,” said former Honiton Primary School pupil Mr McCollum.

“You’ve got some real ‘do-ers’, who give their all to their villages and their churches.

“The people around here have got a real desire to be part of a community.

“I will also miss the Tuckers Arms at Dalwood! I think pubs are important, as well as churches.”

Looking ahead to his new role in the capital of British Columbia, he added: “I am going to have just one church to look after for the first time in 13 years.”

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