The ministry team is made up of the Rector and lay people. Running the Sunday services is a big part of the ministry of the church and services are led by the Rector, the Licensed Lay Ministers and the Lay Worship Leaders. The wider pastoral work is covered by the Rector and the Lay Pastoral Assistants. The team, as a whole, aims to be the visible and accessible face of the church in the wider community. We are involved in our local schools, social clubs, community groups, care homes (and the pubs!).


The Rector


Lydia spent 5 years training for ministry at Oxford and was ordained in 1996. She has ministered in a variety of contexts (including chaplaincy roles) across three different Dioceses. The primary focus of her ministry has always been parish based and she has specialised in market town/village ministry.

Lydia and her family moved to the Diocese of Salisbury 16 years ago, and for 10 years she combined parish ministry with running the family’s smallholding. Her two sons are now grown up and she lives at the Shillingstone Rectory with her husband and 2 cats.

Lydia is also Chair of the Diocesan House of Clergy and Rural Dean of the Blackmore Vale.


A Licensed Lay Minister (LLM) sometimes known as a “Reader”, is part of a national body of lay ministers. LLMs lead services in church (though not Holy Communion), officiate at funerals and have a preaching and teaching focus to their ministry.  

In the Diocese of Salisbury, we have another group of lay ministers called Lay Worship Leaders (LWLs). LWLs’ primary focus is to lead services in church but like LLMs they work to encourage people in their faith, in knowledge of the Bible and in prayer throughout the week as well. 

Mark Riley


Mark is married to Debbie and they have two daughters and a son.  They moved to Child Okeford from the Black Country (West Midlands), in 1998 and became active members of St Nicholas Church.

Mark completed three years Lay Minister training and was licensed at Salisbury Cathedral in 2004.  He ministered in the Okeford Benefice till 2009, then transferred to Blandford Parish Church before returning to the Okeford Benefice in April 2018.

Mark’s main interest has always been the Church and the desire to encourage everyone to explore the Christian faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lay Pastoral Assistant


Abi moved to Child Okeford 8 years ago. As a mother of 2 she was quickly welcomed into the Messy Church family and is now one of the Messy Church leaders. Busy with family, school and church life, Abi was surprised at the journey God has called her on. Having been on the LPA training, Abi then moved on to doing the Lay Worship Leader course. She now leads worship across the benefice.

Abi has put her heart into supporting the ministry team and parishioners in the challenges and blessings we share in our lives today.

Steve Vestbirk


Steve lives in Hammoon and manages the family’s holiday homes as well as being a Churchwarden at St Paul’s Church. He is deeply committed to building up people’s faith in small group settings or walking with individuals on their faith journey. 


Lay Pastoral Assistants engage in the ministry of care, hospitality, practical help and sometimes the discernment of ongoing, more in depth care for people. The foundation of pastoral care is listening and lay pastoral assistants engage deliberately and intentionally in listening to others. They share in the daily prayer life of the church.

LPAs assist the Rector in the provision of pastoral care to the whole parish. The cure of souls assigned to the Rector is then shared with others, providing a better level of care.

Lay Pastoral Assistant


Carolyn moved from London to Dorset 8 years ago. When she lived in London she worked in the banking sector. She has been an LPA for 6 years and lives in Child Okeford with her husband Simon.

Lay Pastoral Assistant


Ruth and her husband Keith moved into Child Okeford in 2013 and Ruth retired shortly after that. She had been very involved in her previous church and very quickly became involved at St Nicholas. Church life is important to Ruth and she is very aware that there are many folk who need Christian comfort. Becoming an LPA is a way of showing God’s love for us all.