‘Reverend Candles’ helps to bring light to Ukraine

A clergyman has been dubbed “Reverend Candles” by parishioners after he collected thousands of used candles so that they could be melted, reshaped and sent to Ukraine.

Reverend Will Lyon Tupman, 29, based at St Mary’s Church in Sawston, Cambridge, began collecting candles in 2022 after he heard about an appeal for spares.

When he saw old candles in his vestry he said he had a “lightbulb” moment.

The candles were taken to a charity, which melts them to create new ones.

“I heard about a campaign through a contact at the Sandy Rotary Club in Bedfordshire, who collected old candles which are taken to the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership. They are melted down to produce new ones sent to Ukraine,” Mr Lyon Tupman said.

“Churches use a lot of candles, and I noticed a box full of used ones in my vestry. It was my lightbulb moment. I put out appeals to fellow churches and clergy, and they all got on board.”

He described the initiative as a “win-win” situation.

“The churches are having a spring clean and recycling their old candles. It has been so encouraging to see the spirit of generosity.”

Reverend Will Lyon Tupman loading the car with candles

Mr Lyon Tupman loads his car with candles at the start of their journey to Ukraine

He said the need for candle lighting in Ukraine was “huge”, as “up to 40%” of the country’s power supply had been damaged since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“I have collected thousands of used candles from village churches in the Cambridge and St Neots area, and Bedfordshire as well,” Mr Lyon Tupman said.

He also travelled across the Essex border to Saffron Walden to collect candles.

“I go out and do a weekly collection, when I have got a car full, I take them to the rotary club, where [rotary member] Dudley Smith transports about a ton-and-a-half of them to the Swindon charity.”

The car boot of Reverend Will Lyon Tupman, on another candle runThe car boot of Reverend Will Lyon Tupman, on another candle run

The car boot is always ready for another candle run

Mr Smith said volunteers at the Wiltshire charity melt down some candles to create new ones, and those that were still intact were “shipped out by truck to the Ukraine and through a network of charitable organisations spread across the country”.

Thanking Mr Lyon Tupman for his collections, Mr Smith wrote: “The ones your congregation collected should be keeping people warm in the Ukraine by Valentine’s Day.

“As I found when I visited Ukraine last March, [the candles] are very much appreciated by the public.”

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