The Reverend Joanna Baxter Fielding is the Associate Priest for the Benefice of Marsden, Slaithwaite and East Scammonden. Joanna is a self-supporting minister (SSM) who moved to the Colne Valley in 2019, with her husband David.
Jo is originally from rural North Devon, near Exmoor, where most of her family still live. She met David (a Lancashire lad from Chorley) at University, where she studied theology in the 1980s. They met through the Methodist student society, though Jo was also very much part of her college chapel and Christian Union.
After graduation, she spent a couple of years working for the Methodist church as an English teacher in a high school in Zimbabwe where she also served as a lay preacher and Sunday school teacher. Following her return to Oxford in 1992, she and David continued to live and work there, and had their daughter Anna. Later on, they moved further north, to Leicestershire, where Matthew was born. Jo completed her lay reader training with the Diocese of Leicester, and helped to develop a large ministry team across the Vale of Belvoir, a group of 7 parishes all together. During this time she also earned a graduate diploma in Careers Guidance. Following a move to Northamptonshire, but still within the Leicester Diocese, Jo worked as a careers adviser with secondary school students and young men in a Young Offenders institute, whilst continuing to take services in her local parishes.
In 2004, the family emigrated to New Zealand, as David had a new job at Otago University in Dunedin, South Island. They joined their local parish church where they both helped with Sunday school, and Jo was re-licensed as a Lay Reader in the Diocese of Dunedin. She worked at the university as an administrator for some years, and then returned to Careers advice, supporting adults who had suffered life changing accidents, helping them re-train and adapt to new careers.
In 2012 Jo was Ordained to the Diaconate, and a year later Ordained as a Priest. Jo served in two roles; as hospital chaplain and also as parish priest on the outskirts of Dunedin city on the Otago Peninsula, which had 3 small congregations, some spectacular beaches and an Albatross colony.
Within the parish, Jo quickly noticed that there were many young families in her parish who had no means of connecting with each other, so she started a music-based playgroup which was a big success, fostering new links between families, and between the community and the church. She also worked hard to raise the profile of the church in the area, by volunteering as a Brownie assistant leader, teaching Christian education in two primary schools where she was also on the school traffic patrol team.
Jo says that two things stand out for her in the many lovely things about her parish; one was the way in which the community practiced hospitality and love for their neighbours in the street and across the city and Diocese. And secondly she loved the range of worship styles across the congregations, from Taize and chorus-singing home groups to high church liturgy complete with incense and processions!
Outside her church role, Jo also worked for some years as a secular volunteer for Victim Support, specialising in supporting bereaved families where a suicide or a homicide had occurred.
In 2019 Jo and David returned to live in England, to be nearer to their families. David took up a post as a Professor at Manchester University in the Global Development Institute. Their daughter Anna also lives here, finishing graduate studies just outside London, though their son Matt is still working in New Zealand. Jo says although this is the furthest north she has ever lived, this place still feels like home, reminding her of the steep hills of her rural Devon childhood, and of the cattle and sheep farms of her Dunedin parish more recently. She is delighted to have this opportunity to join the team here in the Colne Valley, and is very much looking forward to the future with us all, whatever it may bring!