The Venerable David Huss, Rev Faith Sithole, Bishop Ferran Glenfield, Rev Sam Peilow and Dean Nigel Crossey.

'They were happy to have us, we were happy to come'

Google maps shows the distance from Derry city to Killeshandra church is 135km, around two hours and ten minutes to drive.

Originally from Derry, Rev Sam Peilow has been serving in Killeshandra since August last year. However, he didn't take a direct route to the lakeside town. The Anglo-Celt caught up with Sam on his journey to the Killeshandra group of parishes.

On Sunday, June 23, he was ordinated as Presbyter to the Killeshandra group of parishes of Killeshandra, Killegar, Derrylane and Drumcoghill. On the same day, Faith Sithole from Virginia was ordained a deacon.

Previously a Deacon, Rev Sam was able to lead services, marry, baptise, and hold funerals. He explained his recent ordination as Presbyter means that he can now also give holy communion.

“That’s really significant,” he said.

“I’ll be in and around Killeshandra more,” he said, explaining that, previously, somebody would come to give communion; while he would have to go to a different parish to cover on that day.

“When you’re visiting somewhere else, it’s not really the same as ministering people that you know.

“It’ll be nice to be more present more fully in Killeshandra group,” he said, looking forward to hosting his first holy communion service.

Previously living in Derry, Scotland, Belfast, Dublin and London, Rev Sam explained how he and his wife, Georgina, along with their two daughters, who turn one and three years this summer, arrived in Killeshandra.

Rev Sam grew up in a Church of Ireland setting and later realised he wanted to take a ministerial path in life.

“From I was about 14 or 15, I got shelved out the door and made go to this youth club that was starting up at my church.

“That was the first context where I really came to understand the Christian message for myself.

“I got used to seeing the bible opened up, I was engaging with that and chatting with people and sitting with the bible open and trying to study it.”

He explained what the Christian message is to him.

“The heart of the gospel is that God invites each of us to know him as our father and he does that through Jesus and through his death and his resurrection.

“The big thing that made everything fall into place was understanding that it was about faith and trusting in Jesus and trusting in his death that brings forgiveness and his resurrection that brings hope of eternal life.”

It was towards the end of his secondary education that Rev Sam started considering studying theology and would spend his free periods studying the bible rather than doing school work.

Aged around 17 or 18, he found himself undecided between theology or IT

“Wiser heads prevailed,” he said, explaining that he was advised to “go off and get a bit of experience, get a trade".

Initially, Sam studied Software Engineering in Sterling, pursuing his interest in technology.

“I did that and deferred thinking about studying theology or training for ministry,” he said, making the decision to move to Scotland.

Despite studying something completely different, the thought of training for ministry stayed at the back of his mind.

After studying for four years in Scotland, he moved to Belfast and worked in the software industry for five years. While doing so, he got involved in the local church, teaching Sunday school, helping in the youth club, reading and “toying with the idea of ministry".

After meeting a “friend of a friend” who was a minister in Dublin, he decided to apply for an apprenticeship in ministry and was accepted.

He then made the move from Belfast to Immanuel Church in Dublin, leaving the IT word behind and starting his ministerial journey through which he had a “really positive” experience.

It was during this time that he met his wife, Donegal woman Georgina, who was in the final year of her apprenticeship.

“We grew up thirty miles apart but never really crossed paths,” he said.

Georgina and Sam married and moved to London where he studied at Oak Hill College in North London for four years, after which he was put in touch with Bishop Ferran Glenfield who told him of a vacancy in the Killeshandra group of parishes. He came over at Easter time last year to meet with the nominators.

“They were happy to have us, we were happy to come,” he said.

Life began to move at a fast pace for the couple, as Sam explained.

“I got ordained at the start of June 2023 and the next day we left for the ferry,” he said, after which they spent time in Derry and Donegal. The couple had their second daughter, Sam submitted his dissertation and they moved to Killeshandra all in the space of around two weeks.

The father of two will graduate in London this October. He described life in Killeshandra as “great".

“It’s a different pace and a different scale,” he said, comparing Killeshandra to London.

“It’s nice, Georgina is from a farming background so lots of elements of life in Killeshandra are very familiar to her, slightly more so than me.”

The route to Killeshandra wasn't quite as simple as Google maps suggested, thankfully good people have helped along the way and Rev Sam finally reached his destination.

“The people around us have kept us right," he said.

“In ministry you get parachuted into a place and you know nothing and no one and people trust you to do the 'up at the front' on a Sunday morning stuff but you can really do very little without the people around you telling you what’s what.

“A big part of the learning curve this year is learning how little we know coming in and how much we’re dependent on Church wardens and people who come alongside us.”

Still learning his craft, the 34 year old said his experience has been “really positive” so far.

“People have been very patient and very generous,” he said.