A dynamic vicar, inspired to take up the cloth following a near death experience, is aiming to unite different faiths and create an inclusive support network of community champions.

The Reverend Andy Cain took up his role as the vicar at St Mary’s Church in Cuddington - "a church that was already doing okay but was seeking a greater community focus" - he said in September last year.

The 37-year-old, who was born in Carshalton, is not only focused on diversifying what the church offers to its Anglican community, but on bringing different groups together - regardless of their religion - to "significantly impact the area for the better".

He said: "Many people give a significant amount to the community. 

"I need to find those people are encourage them more, to become great ambassadors for the community.

"I see myself as someone who meets, encourages and drives community champions.

"I would like to be part of the growing spirituality of the community, but want to be accessible to all faiths and none."

The vicar said that he runs traditional church services, as well as those which are more interactive and have a "creative edge", to attract a wider range of churchgoers. 


In the community, delivering assemblies at local schools, undertaking activities with scouts and playing bingo in the area’s residential homes are just some of the ways Mr Cain reaches out.

He said he asks people to call him "Andy" and rarely wears his vicar’s collar because "I’m just one of the people".

He added: "I’m there to serve the people, not to lord it over them and that makes a difference."

"Near death experience made me realise the need to do something of value"

After leaving school aged 16, the vicar said he had "no idea of where he was going" although he had a "very strong idea that I would be called to some sort of ministry".

He worked in the IT industry for many years, but said it was "never something I particularly enjoyed".

Baptised as a child, Mr Cain attended church as he was growing up and undertook mission work abroad aged 17.

He said a near death experience in the Irish Sea in 2001, where he said he was about to drown, made him realise the "need for change, to do something of value with my life", after which he started studying Theology.

Mr Cain said: "At the time I was spending my money on cars and was focused on gaining all I could.

"In the sea, I knew it was the last couple of seconds and I prayed for the first time in a long time and found my feet."

"We all have the same struggles in life"

He said his own upbringing formed his views about the need "to recognise that we are all here to support and guide others", especially with issues of self-belief and self-esteem, which he believes can hold many people back.

Mr Cain said: "We all have the same struggles in life and it’s about helping people to realise that they are of value.

"I didn’t have the best upbringing but through other people I have made something with my life that I’m proud of." 

He said said three works of literature were instrumental in helping to shape this view. 

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, the playwright’s last work written after his release from Reading Prison where he was incarcerated for homosexual offences; The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky; and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, which chronicles the author’s experiences as an inmate of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War Two.

"Accept people and their life choices"

Mr Cain said he conducted a lot of "inter-faith work" in his last parish in rural Leicestershire - where he was the vicar of 13 churches and it was "all about community", experience he believes will help him in Cuddington.

He added: "I was looking to help others understand the huge similarities existing between the Christians and Muslims. 

"Seeing a common purpose in people underpins this.

"I don't have much time for those who want to be judgemental or ungracious towards others. 

"Accept people and their life choices."

The vicar, who works from 8.30am to 10pm most days, said he could not do his job without his own support network, which consists of his children and wife - whom he married aged 21.

He added: "I believe in seeing the best in situations and turning them around for the better.

"I agree with what Gandhi said - that we must be the change we want to see in the world."