HELENSBURGH’S newest minister has spoken to the Advertiser about his hopes for his church and why he thinks his unique experiences could benefit the community.

Rev Mitchell Bunting, who is already known to some – if not all – of his congregation at the town’s United Reformed Church by his lifelong nickname of ‘Bungie’, took up his new post in the autumn.

One of Mr Bunting’s reasons for moving to Helensburgh is that, as a lifelong member of the peace movement, he was interested in finding out more about working in a community with such strong links to the military.

But he stressed: “It’s not as if I’m here to chain myself to a fence or anything.”

Rather he explained that he was interested in bringing the Helensburgh community closer by getting different congregations and faiths to work together.

He said: “The idea I come with is to bridge the gap between faith and politics, so people with different faiths can find a way of living together and talking together.

“It’s not about the churches being the same. They are diverse. It’s about creating a safe place for differences where they can be celebrated, and discussions can be had.”

Mr Bunting said he’s already been impressed at the co-operation between local churches, but didn’t want to rush to put his ideas into action.

“I want to take it up a gear,” he said, “but in a slow and progressive way, that will ensure everyone is on board.

“It’s really positive to know that all the churches already know each other, and that people don’t have a problem turning up to the same events.”

A keen diver and walker, Mr Bunting showed his passion for outdoor exercise in early December when he ran down the aisle at the end of the church’s Sunday morning service, casting aside his minister’s vestments in a bid to reach Colquhoun Square in time to make the start of the Winter Festival’s ‘Santa Dash’ race.

He is also a self-taught clown – and though his days as part of a group known as ‘the Holy Fools’, which aimed to use clowning to build links with schoolchildren, are long past, his eyes “lit up” at the chance to take part in interactive storytelling in Helensburgh through the monthly ‘Messy Church’ sessions in the town.

He trained for the ministry in Oxford and also has a postgraduate qualification in ethics and communication, a Masters in the ecumenical movement of Scotland, and is now working on a doctorate.

A minister in the URC for more than 30 years, he also had a spell as director of the Church of Scotland’s Sea of Galilee Centre in Israel and is a long-serving member of the ecumenical Iona Community.

He added: “It’s really good to be in a community that knows what it’s doing, and I can be a partner in the mission rather than leading it.”