A chance conversation in the corridors of power in Westminster was the spark that set a career civil servant to follow God’s call that would finally see him being ordained in Durham Cathedral this month.
Paul Arnold, 39, will be ordained as Priest in the Diocese of Durham at a ceremony in Durham Cathedral on the 29th June – one year after being first ordained as a Deacon in 2018.
Paul who originally studied to become a Criminal Barrister in London ended up working in the Cabinet Office for 10 years. He worked on various projects including how to responding to the pandemic flu, managing a couple of job centres in East London and working on devolution issues just as the Scots decided they wanted to have an independence referendum.
It was whilst helping to set up the Cabinet Office Christian network and seeding different Christian Unions across government that a chance conversation with a colleague that Paul first heard God’s call to ministry himself.
Paul said: “I found myself in some fascinating positions with wonderfully motivated people. I ended up in senior management and was mentoring someone going through the discernment process for ministry when She left the room that we were in and said, ‘and God is going to make a great priest out of you, then shut the door and walked away’ – that just knocked me for six.
“Initially, this suggestion took some time for us as a family to process. But once we surrendered to what God was pointing us to, we have never looked back.“
Through various other encounters with God’s call, Paul and his Wife decided that he should follow that strong voice and train for ordination. But it wasn’t a direct course to Durham as he explains: “I decided to take an extra year in training and do an MA instead of the normal diploma and found myself missing all the roles that were on offer in my training Diocese of Chelmsford.
“Initially this really worried me, but then it happened again, God was calling me to Durham through two further chance encounters. The first was a message from a colleague who had seen a tweet from the Bishop of Jarrow about a Curacy opportunity at St Paul’s in Stockton and then that same day a conversation with the college principal who had just had a conversation with the same Bishop about the same role and thought it would be right up my street!”
The rest, as they say, is history and Paul arrived in the Diocese of Durham in 2018 after a further confirmatory encounter on his first visit here. Paul said: We came up a bit early because we wanted to see we knew where we were going to potentially be planting into. So we wanted to drive around and just take a check it all out. As we drove along this little road, it dips down and comes up to again, the spire of St Paul’s just kind of pops up as you drive towards it. Just as the spire hit the horizon I just got this intense sight and prickles down the back my spine feeling and I knew that that was it, I was coming here”.
Paul and his family feel very much at home in the Diocese and are loving the community, the area and a looking forward to their futures. He said: “Follow what God is asking me to do, and to trust in that, has been such a great learning process and such a joy to do. Seeing what He’s done with the people at St. Paul’s whilst I have been in training – not yet ready to lead them has been an interesting journey for them as well this past year. Them knowing that somebody is coming but not there yet and trying to build a relationship with them has been challenging but ultimately rewarding. It started from not knowing each other to a place of growing together. And I think that is what God was calling me away from Westminster to do!”