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Man Alive The woman who inspires me Will van der Hart

Holy Trinity Brompton’s pastoral chaplain thanks his friend Dr Marj Mott for her wise counsel and pastoral care which continues to shape his life and ministry

+ Rev Will van der Hart is pastoral chaplain at Holy Trinity Brompton and a director of Mind and Soul, a charity helping Christians to engage with mental and emotional health issues ( Will has also co-written a number of books including The Guilt Book, The Worry Book, both with Dr Rob Waller, and The Pregnancy Book with his wife Lucinda. For further details visit


first met Marj (a retired medical physicist) shortly after my induction as priest of St Peter’s Church in West Harrow where she heads up the pastoral care team. I remember her and her husband

Godfrey asking me some very challenging questions about how I was going to look after myself. Marj is one of the most uniquely pastoral people I have met and that immediately meant we had a strong sense of affinity with each other. The challenge that all pastors face is one of weak boundaries or ‘compulsive caring’. This typically means that the pastor inevitably gets burnt out or is ruled by a need to be needed by others. What immediately struck me about Marj was how self- aware she was; able to show others

love and

model health-boundaried leadership at the same time.

As a senior leader, particularly

in a church, your own well-being is often not addressed and yet 40% of clergy are suffering from burnout and 20% suffer from depression as a result of their work. As a new priest in a busy parish, I knew I was at risk of overdoing it. Marj had a way of challenging without being obstructive or patronising. I always sensed that she cared about me and my family more than she did about my ministry, and that I should have those values in that order. During our regular meetings, Marj would

always sit down in my office and say, “And how are you doing?” She was an example of the truth that how you say something is as important as what you are saying. The way she asked the question always required more than the typical, “I am OK,w thanks.”

50 October 2015 womanalive

people over time ‘achieving goals’. She taught me that spending my time on others was the most generous thing I could do, rather than the thing I ‘had’ to do as part of my ministry. There is an important difference there. When I am getting too busy, which is a

lot of the time, I often check myself with a “How are you?” This always brings me back to Jesus and his unconditional love for me. I am reminded that I am a human being and not a human doing. When it comes to pastoral ministry, I have become less concerned with changing the world and more concerned with changing people’s lives. If we minister God’s grace one life at a time we will change the world at the end of the day.

Working together impacted my values as a priest and helped me to prioritise time with

Will van der Hart with Marj Mott and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

I am still good friends with Marj and Godfrey, despite having moved jobs and locations. Seeing them just reinforces all of the good things they taught me, but most of all it reminds me that I am loved and when I am loved, that’s when I am dangerous for the kingdom of God. Marj is far too modest to hear me singing her praises, in fact I will probably get in a whole lot of trouble

for writing this stuff down! At the same time I think she will appreciate it. Typically people don’t encourage each other enough. Christian leaders particularly fall into platitude making and that can feel really hollow. I think we

all need to be reminded that God is using us to minister to each other from time to time. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Solomon had everything you could

materially want, but it was wisdom that he prized more than anything he had. When you have wisdom speaking into your life, you are richly blessed and for six years I worked with someone who was really wise. I like to think I was as receptive to her wisdom as I could have been. God’s wisdom applied to a willing heart is a recipe for a transformed heart. I hope I am still changing, both from Marj’s influence but also from a number of other sources of great spiritual wisdom in my life. God knows I need it!

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