Tom Rout is vicar of the Ipswich Waterfront Churches (St Helen’s, Holy Trinity and St Luke’s) and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College. He is married to Nicola and father of 3 young children.
“It’s like Monaco!” I blurted down the phone. It was July 2014 and I was talking to my wife, trying to describe what lay before me as I walked from Stoke Bridge along the Waterfront marina area; with its interesting variety of bars and restaurants on the pavement to my left and the fine array of yachts and speedboats in the water to my right. I’d never been to Ipswich before and never imagined it was anything like this! As I approached the University’s waterfront building I said goodbye and put my phone away – I had an interview to concentrate on. The post? Vicar of 3 churches in the area surrounding the Waterfront and chaplain to the education quarter.
We’ve been here two and a half years now (yes, I got the job…!) and feel very settled in Ipswich. We love the town, the people, the county, its countryside and coastline. How did we end up here? Well, after completing a curacy (a church word for ‘an assistant minister post’) in Leicestershire, I was on the look-out for my first ‘vicar job’. The post in Ipswich was unusual in that it offered an opportunity to combine church ministry with ministry among students, something I had spent several years doing in London’s West End. So I applied - without the faintest idea that Ipswich was an up and coming town; set for significant infrastructure investment and with a University on the brink of independence.
What appealed most about this post was the opportunity to develop a vibrant Christian presence in a prominent and increasingly important part of a major UK town. The impression can sometimes be given that God is dead and the world has moved on after the funeral. The number of closed church buildings around Ipswich (now given to other uses) certainly point in that direction. My hope is that through the Waterfront churches and chaplaincy, we can give the people, businesses and institutions of the Waterfront area a sense that God is still very much present, and still a force for good in our Town.