This article was originally published in the Bridge Magazine, October issue.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the North-East of England, the son of a journalist, moved to Sheffield when I was 18 to go to university (studied Economics) and after graduating spent the next ten years or so working for Rotherham Training and Enterprise Council in various capacities – before training to be a vicar in 2002.
Ordained in 2005, I spent four years working with a church on South Tyneside, and then seven years in New Barnet, on the north edge of London.
While I was in Sheffield I met Carol (who hails from Malvern and was training to be a Landscape Architect). Marriage and six kids followed, along with lots of trips back to Malvern – and now we’re back in Worcestershire for good.
Six kids – are you mad?
No – They play together, pray together and do life together. It’s wonderful – on a good day. Other days its hard work, and requires some pretty big lifestyle sacrifices. I remember thinking when we had our fourth child was born that I’d blown my final hope of ever having a fancy car. So now you’ll see me driving a battered 10-year old Renault minibus around. It’s not a car I’d ever imagined driving – but God is like that – he gives us what we need not what we want.
What are your hopes for your time as Priest in Charge of the Benefice of Hanley Castle, Hanley Swan and Welland; and the Benefice of Upton on Severn, Ripple, Earl’s Croome & Hill Croome with Strensham?
Broadly speaking I’ve got three priorities for our time here.
First of all – to encourage discipleship.
Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t just a one-time decision to pick a side in the religious free-for-all, it’s an ongoing commitment to actively living out the values Jesus taught and demonstrated in his own life, underwritten by a growing dependence upon prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Second – is what I call “getting the shop-window right.”
When we’re out shopping, there’s nothing catches our eye more than a well laid-out shop window. The goods look inviting, the colours and lighting entice. First impressions really matter.
Sad to say, many people’s first impression of church services isn’t as captivating – so one of my challenges over the coming years is to listen to the experiences of those outside our church communities to learn how our churches can do better.
One thing we’ve started straight away is getting rid of that awful name that our family of churches goes by – “the benefice of Hanley etc etc. “ It’s so long you probably didn’t even read the whole thing the first time!
I’m proposing we call our family of churches the “Hope Church Family” and our new website (www.hopechurchfamily.org) is a great place to visit to find out all about the various things going on in the individual churches. Do give it a visit – when you see it all together there’s a lot going on. And while you’re on the website, do sign up for our monthly newsletter which will tell you more of what’s going on.
My third priority is planning for the future.
Sad to say, some of the churches have only a very limited provision for children. Over time I hope to see that change – because without children our church congregations will never know a long-term future.
At my last church God blessed us with considerable growth in our children’s work – and I believe it can happen here too. But it does mean we might have to change a few things along the way so that children and young families can more easily participate.
It sounds like you’re going to be busy then!
Yes! But I also know I need to get to know our communities better and understand more of the rhythm of rural life. That will take time – Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it was built – so if you’re the sort of person who likes to build things and make a difference – please get in touch – we’d love to get you involved!
Vicar, Hope Church Family