About Me

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After spending 9 years as a Church Army Officer, I went to Ripon College Cuddesdon in 2009 to train for ordination in the Church of England. I was ordained deacon in September 2011, and then priest in September 2012, serving as Assistant Curate in the parish of St. Botolph Northfleet and St. Mark Rosherville. Clare and I married in July 2000, and our son Nathan was born in September 2010

Friday, 12 December 2014

Blog hiatus!

I'm well aware that it's been a shocking two years since I last posted here!

That will be rectified in the New Year! Some of you may be aware that my curacy is coming to an end and I am moving to Lichfield Diocese to become the Vicar of Bradwell and Porthill. My licensing is taking place on January 31st, so either in the run-up to the licensing, or shortly afterwards, this blog will be reactivating - and hopefully become a lot more regular in its output!

In the meantime, I hope you have a blessed Christmas.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

React or Respond?

When the already infamous vote took place, I was with a number of colleagues in Rochester Diocese on a 24-hour Residential for Vocations Advisors. (As an aside, what bitter irony, to be gathered together as Vocations Advisors on the day that women with a vocation to the episcopate were denied the opportunity).

We heard a great deal of wisdom over that 24 hours, including the following snippet from the Diocesan Director of Formation and Ministry. In any situation, he asked, do we react or respond?

A reaction tends to happen in the heat of the moment, often without being thought through. It is an instinctive act, and not necessarily inappropriate, although it certainly can be. A response, on the other hand, is usually more measured, more considered, and, whilst not devoid of emotions, not made with one's emotions controlling the response.

If we look to the example of Jesus, we might think that he reacted on a number of occasions - the most obvious example, perhaps, being that of the cleansing of the temple, when he drove out the moneychangers. But actually, even this was a considered response - Mark 11:11 tells us that the day before this happened, Jesus "went into the temple and looked around at everything." His response to what he saw came 24 hours later, after he had spent time thinking and reflecting on what he saw.

It is to the great credit of many disappointed by the events of Tuesday that - even with emotions ranging from anger to frustration to devastation - that published responses have been just that - responses which have been thoughtful, prayerful and uncontrolled by their emotions. 

My hope and prayer is that this attitude will continue, and that all of us who are desperately disappointed (or whatever other adjective you wish to insert here) by the failure of Synod to reach the required amount of votes to pass what the Church at large has overwhelmingly endorsed - I pray that we will continue to be thoughtful and prayerful in our response, in our working to put this (as I see it) injustice right, and in our serving of our local communities as we join in with the mission of God.

The mission field will be harder now, no question, as people question the relevance of a Church which appears to endorse sexism; but I hope that, at least on a local level, people who already know and value and appreciate the ministry of the church and its impact on the local community - these people will continue to value it. I suspect it is the national level where the Church will have to work exceedingly hard to win back the trust and respect of others.

So pray for our Bishops and others who have positions on influence. And pray that those outside the church who cannot understand the failure to approve the legislation may too be considered in their responses, and recognise that the failure was down to a significant minority who are unrepresentative of the vast majority of the Church.

And finally, pray for all those amazing female priests who feel battered, hurt, unvalued, and many more emotions. May the love of God assure them of their inherent value to God, and may they find support and assurance from the many, many people who value their ministry.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Now we are two...

A purely personal update this time.

Yesterday, a certain little boy turned two years old. Quite where those two years have gone is beyond me! The changes that have occurred even in the last year are quite phenomenal - when we arrived in the parish, Nathan wasn't walking, there were burbles but no words, and he was only recently onto solids.

Now, he is walking, running and climbing everywhere, his vocabulary is increasing almost daily, and he has started at nursery for three mornings a week. We took the decision to do that, partly because it will be a huge help to his development, but also because it will ease the transition to when he goes five mornings a week from next year. It is still very early days, but, once he gets over the trauma of the initial departing, he settles down and has a lot of fun! The nursery staff have told us that he is "very polite" - he will always say please, and he is the only child in his class to put his hand over his mouth when he coughs!

Anyway, back to his birthday. Unlike last year, Nathan was very aware of what was happening. Every time he opened a birthday card, he sang his version of "Happy Birthday"! We had a little party for him in the church hall, with about a dozen other children (some from church, some from Toddler Groups, and, of course, cousins Emily & Charlotte). They all really enjoyed themselves, and for some of them, it was their first ever birthday party invitation!

All-in-all, it was a fantastic (if exhausting) day. Pictures will be posted in the next day or so, for those who would like to see them!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Priestly musings

A journey which began in 1995 came to fruition two days ago when James, Bishop of Rochester ordained me and two others as priests in St. Botolph's Church Northfleet. It's a journey which has taken me through:

  • 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!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Broken for me, broken for you

With my priesting less than 2 months away, my incumbent and I have begun conversations about - and practice for - celebrating the Eucharist. We had one such conversation this morning.

We talked through the Eucharistic prayer in situ, exploring the theology, the liturgy, the drama, the language, and more! My inquisitive nature led me to ask lots and lots of questions, without realising that I was focusing largely on practical questions. Not that this is a bad thing to do, of course - there are a great many practical things to think about when leading people in worship, and particularly so in the Eucharist - but I had become so focused on the practical aspects that I hadn't really thought about what I was actually preparing to do.

That is, until we came to the line, "We break this bread to share in the body of Christ." At that point, as I held up and broke an (unconsecrated) wafer, it began to register with me what I was doing. My incumbent talked with me about the significance of this particular moment in the liturgy - we break the bread as we look out on a congregation full of broken people - as we are ourselves.

We see the brokenness of the lives of people whom we as priests are ministering to. We know who is broken by bereavement. We know who is dealing with broken relationships. We know who is facing the brokenness of unemployment. We know the brokenness of our own lives. We know that, as priests, we will be broken at points in this ministry to which we have been called.

And in all this, we raise the paradox of Christianity - that healing and wholeness is found, not in power and glory, but in the brokenness of Jesus Christ upon the cross, visible in the breaking of the sacrament. We as priests offer this healing and wholeness to a broken world on behalf of God. In a very real way, just as Moses stood in the gap between the people of Israel and God, so we stand in the gap between the congregation and God, for whom many of the former feel is somehow unapproachable, because of things in their lives which they think of as being 'unforgiveable'. (This last point may be peculiar to the sort of parish in which I am Assistant Curate, but somehow I don't believe it is).

As we talked this through (and believe me, I am far from finished reflecting on this conversation), I was overwhelmed as to the awesomeness of the responsibility and privilege that God is calling me to. And so, perhaps for the first time, I am beginning to be aware of just how different it will be to preside at the Eucharist in comparison with leading other acts of worship. If any priests who read this have words of wisdom to share on this matter - and if you can remember preparing for and celebrating your first Eucharist - I would greatly value reading your comments.

For me, there is much to reflect upon over the next few weeks!

Monday, 18 June 2012

There's a Wideness to God's Mercy

If you follow the Christian blogosphere at all, you will have seen this statement published on the Church of England website. Reactions have been swift from all directions, from groups and individuals such as Inclusive Church on the one hand, and Church Society on the other. Many responses can be found at Thinking Anglicans, both in the links posted and in the individual comments.

I am not going to go into the minutiae of the statement itself - others have done that more comprehensively than I could do. But I do have a few thoughts on this whole situation.

Firstly, it is more than unfortunate that this statement has been published anonymously. For a statement purported to be on behalf of the Church of England, it would have been far better for the authors to have made it clear who they were. As it is, the anonymous publication has created a cloud of suspicion and mistrust which could have been mitigated, at least to a degree.

Secondly, I find it incredible that anyone could issue such a statement which claims to be the Church of England's response to the Government Consultation, without having conducted any consultation themselves. This is a huge and complex issue which many people in the Church hold diverse views on, and to imply that this is the Church of England's Response in this way is simply wrong. The increasing numbers of people disassociating themselves from the statement is testimony to that.

If, for example, there had been a debate in General Synod, with a vote taken, then there would have been a mandate for a response to be made in this way, albeit with an explicit clause acknowledging the diversity of opinion within the Church. I believe that, whatever the result was, people generally would have accepted that due process had happened, that the majority view would be expressed, and that minority views would have been acknowledged.

My suspicions are that there was probably a realisation at some point not too long ago that the date for the deadline was drawing near, and that there wasn't time to do a widespread consultation in the Church. With the debates in Dioceses on both Women in the Episcopate and the Anglican Covenant, it is quite possible that this is true; but in that case, a response could have been made which was far more reflective of the diversity of opinion throughout the Church, rather than the one which has caused such antagonism.

Frans Snyders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Finally, this, to me, is yet another example of the infuriating habit we humans have in putting limits on God's love - particularly when we think about the parable of the mustard seed which many of us will have heard (or even preached upon) yesterday. The parable which talks of the inclusivity of God's Kingdom, as shown by this seed which grows and grows until all are able to "nest in its branches." The parable which emphasises how God extends his welcome to every single person, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever other difference/distinction we might care to think of. How ironic that this parable should be our Gospel reading at the same time 'the Church of England' puts out a statement which excludes people from the love of God, rather than includes them into God's family.

We sang a hymn yesterday which is well known to many: There's a Wideness to God's Mercy. It includes the following lines:

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
With a zeal he will not own.

Might I humbly suggest that, whatever our personal convictions with regard to the issues being debated, we spend some time reflecting on those words and asking ourselves the question: "what limits am I placing on the love of God in the way I think and speak and act?"

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Full steam ahead!

Just a quick update, having been on holiday for two weeks, and then had a very full first week back!

Went to see Bishop Brian on Monday to talk about my first 9 months as a deacon, and had a very good conversation about what has been life-giving and life-denying during that time. He said there is no question about me being ordained priest in September, so it's all systems go.

For anyone interested, the ordination is on Saturday 8th September, and I will be presiding at my first Eucharist the following morning! Awesome, exciting, a little daunting, and lots more emotions besides! I am sure I will reflect more fully on the prospect as the day draws closer...