Meet the Locals: Anglican Reverend Angela Peverell of St Alban's Parish in Muswellbrook

When Angela Peverell accepted a corporate communications position at Telstra in February 2017, she says she never expected to resign within a year for another job, not with a competitor but with the Anglican Church.

"In my last job I was the head of capability for customer experience at Telstra," Reverend Peverell said.

"I had a really great career, a mix between human resources and consulting in sales and marketing, but ultimately I always felt God's call on my life.

"But as a female in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, women in the church there are not able to be ordained."

ST ALBANS: Reverend Angela Peverell inside Muswellbrook's St Alban's Church, one of three Anglican parishes she is responsible for.

ST ALBANS: Reverend Angela Peverell inside Muswellbrook's St Alban's Church, one of three Anglican parishes she is responsible for.

As a result, Reverend Peverell instead pursued a corporate career in Sydney and raised two children, but her desire to serve in the church continued to grow.

After joining the Society of St Francis and pursuing a Bachelor's degree in theology at Trinity College in Melbourne, a chance encounter at a conference with an acquaintance, now a Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, convinced Reverend Peverell to pursue a priesthood in the Newcastle diocese which allows women to be ordained.

After undergoing an evaluation process in October 2017 with the diocese leadership, Reverend Peverell was invited to enter the formation process to become a priest in February the following year.

"I had only been headhunted and started my job at Telstra in January 2017, and I had to go to them and say 'I've been approached again but it's a whole different story!'" Reverend Peverell said.

"I remember my daughter had just completed her first year as a registered nurse in Sydney and I came home from a meeting with the Bishop and had to say, 'I'm really sorry but I'm actually going to do this and I'm going to do it now' and she had to move out of home because I packed everything up and moved to Newcastle."

HERITAGE: Completed in 1869, the heritage-listed St Alban's church is the centre of the Anglican parish in Muswellbrook. Photo: Mathew Perry

HERITAGE: Completed in 1869, the heritage-listed St Alban's church is the centre of the Anglican parish in Muswellbrook. Photo: Mathew Perry

After completing months of training, Reverend Peverell was ordained as a priest in November 2019 and took on various roles at St Peter's Church in Hamilton and Newcastle's Christ Church Cathedral, before COVID-19 arrived in Australia.

"So I went from my first celebration of mass at the Cathedral to all of a sudden, well now we're in lockdown, so you could really say I had a baptism of fire."

Then, in November 2020, Reverend Peverell was invited to put herself forward as a candidate to lead the Anglican parish in Muswellbrook and was inducted to lead the parish in February 2021.

"I've been here for nine months and in that nine months I've had two lockdowns, so it's been a very different and extraordinary experience," Reverend Peverell said.

Apart from the St Alban's parish in Muswellbrook, Reverend Peverell is also responsible for St Mark's Church in Aberdeen and the small rural parish of St Paul's in Castle Rock.

"It literally has no running water, no electricity, it's freezing in winter, but it's a beautiful community and really strong congregation," Reverend Peverell said of the Castle Rock church.

COUNTRY CHURCH: The rural congregation of St Paul's Anglican Church in Castle Rock, west of Muswellbrook. Photo: Paul Ingles

COUNTRY CHURCH: The rural congregation of St Paul's Anglican Church in Castle Rock, west of Muswellbrook. Photo: Paul Ingles

Prior to moving to Muswellbrook, Reverend Peverell said she had never lived regionally in her life.

"The first thing my children did was go out and buy me a gift voucher for RM Williams and I've got myself an Akubra, so I can look the part!" Reverend Peverell joked.

"But it's been a massive transition, leaving friends of 30 or 40 years in Sydney and along with my family.

"I wouldn't call them roots but I certainly had connections here after my parents relocated to Branxton about 25 years ago, but it was never the plan that I would follow mum and dad up here."

Since beginning the process of entering the priesthood, Reverend Peverell has also had to navigate the loss of both her mum and dad in the past two years and said the church, the community and her faith had been a significant source of comfort.

"Faith is an enormous rock and I've been surrounded by love and care during both mum and dad's deaths," she said.

"The three congregations around Muswellbrook have made me feel really welcome. The people of the community here have been amazing."

Since arriving in Muswellbrook, Reverend Peverell has not only been faced with the challenges of integrating into a new community but also dealing with the impact of COVID restrictions.

"There are elderly members of our congregations who I have not ever seen in church, I've only ever seen them at their homes because they are just too uncomfortable with venturing out," Reverend Peverell said of the impact of COVID-19.

Reverend Peverell said her background in corporate communications had helped her adjust to the challenges posed by lockdowns, establishing a YouTube channel for prayers as well as organising funeral services on Zoom for families separated by border closures and travel restrictions.

"We've had to quickly adapt and develop the resources for lockdowns, most of our funerals have been live-streamed," she said.

YOUTUBE: Reverend Angela Peverell conduct many church services via social media due to COVID-19. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle YouTube

YOUTUBE: Reverend Angela Peverell conduct many church services via social media due to COVID-19. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle YouTube

"Sometimes they're very challenging because it's very sad to see a family in grief and not have that cohort of people around them that are normally there to support them."

Aside from day-to-day church activities, Reverend Peverell has moved quickly to engage with and contribute to the wider Muswellbrook community outside of her congregations.

Reverend Peverell has joined committees for the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music (UHCoM) and Muswellbrook Council's Future Fund as well as getting involved with the local Rotary Club.

"I really just want to make a difference, I feel welcomed here and that's my mission, to make a difference and do things that will help strengthen the community."

As COVID restrictions continue to ease, Reverend Peverell is also looking at a number of ways the St Alban's parish can contribute to and engage with the wider community.

"We're looking at putting a children's choir together with the Richard Gill School and the UHCoM, we want to make improvements to our kitchen facilities to open up to more community meals, establish a new children's playgroup at St Alban's Hall and, hopefully, have a carols by candlelight in December," Reverend Peverell said.

"So watch this space, it's all happening in 2022!"

Written by Mathew Perry

This story Meeting Muswellbrook: St Alban's Anglican Reverend Angela Peverell first appeared on Hunter Valley News.