- A year as a Careforce volunteer in Barmouth, Gwynedd.
- 3 years training with Church Army in Sheffield
- 3 years as a Church Army Officer in Derby
- 6 years as a Church Army Officer in Biggin Hill
- 2 years training as an ordinand in Cuddesdon
- 1 year as a deacon in Northfleet and Rosherville.
And that's just the geographical journey! The spiritual and discernment journey has been far more complicated! There have been loads of influences along the way, but I must mention a few specific people who have been there at the key moments:
- Clare, my wife without whom I would not be here today.
- Diana, the reader in Derby who first suggested that God was calling me to the ordained ministry.
- Chris, my vicar in Biggin Hill who brought those seeds to the surface.
- Paul, the then Diocesan Director of Ordinands who accompanied me on my discernment process.
- Lawrence, my training incumbent who has accompanied me through my diaconal year, and prepared me meticulously for ordination as a priest.
- And the many, many friends and family who have encouraged me along the way.
And so to the last few days.
19 of us gathered at Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre in Sussex for a retreat: 12 of us to be ordained priest and 7 to be ordained deacon. Compared to last year (when there were only 13), it felt a little crowded at times, but there is enough space there to find it when you really need it. Probably the most significant moment for me was on Friday evening, when I made my confession to the retreat leader. It is not something which has been part of my tradition, but it felt absolutely right to do it before this momentous event of ordination to the priesthood.
The ordination service took place on Saturday afternoon. I felt very privileged not only to be ordained by our Diocesan Bishop (as the ordinations to the priesthood took place simultaneously in 4 churches around the Diocese), but also that it happened in my own parish. The moment of ordination itself was tremendously powerful, as the Bishop laid hands upon my head, and I was aware of the other priests present gathering around, some laying hands on and all praying for me at that moment. I definitely felt the presence of God, but don't ask me to describe how it felt - I can't!
And then, yesterday morning, I presided at the Eucharist for the first time. You will know from my previous blog post that I have had a good preparation for it, and I think it showed. I wasn't the least bit nervous; just excited and privileged and honoured to be leading God's people in this celebration. (There were a couple of small mistakes, but fortunately, not obvious ones, and nothing that rendered the sacrament invalid!) It was fantastic to have a personal friend, David Walker, Bishop of Dudley, there to preach, and he took me by surprise immediately after the service by kneeling and asking me for a blessing! If I needed a reminder of the awesome responsibility of what God has called me to, there it was!
So here I am, a newly ordained priest in the Church of God. It is a new chapter in my journey; I'm looking forward with anticipation to see where God will take me next!