Nineteen people from diverse walks of life and all ages from twenty-six to sixty-nine will be ordained as Priests and Deacons in the Diocese of Durham at ceremonies to be staged at Durham Cathedral on 29th & 30th June 2019.
Each one has been called to ordained ministry after amassing a wealth of experience in a wide range of places and jobs and include everyone from a former Cabinet Office civil servant to an Undertaker.
PRIESTS – To be ordained 29th June 2019, Durham Cathedral
Those to be ordained Priest by the Bishop of Durham,
The Right Reverend Paul Butler in Durham Cathedral at
5.00pm on Saturday 29th June 2019
Town for media info
Gateshead, St Helen and Bensham, St Chad
Stranton, All Saints
Stranton, All Saints
Chester le Street
Chester le Street
Bishopwearmouth, St Gabriel
Stockton-on-Tees, St Peter & Elton, St John
Hawthorn and Murton
Durham, St Nicholas
Cameron Abernethy, Cockerton
Cameron Abernethy, 44, was born and brought up just south of Edinburgh, and attended church with family from a young age. After leaving school, Cameron decided to take a year out before going to university and worked as a church intern with children and youth in Seattle, USA. Following a couple of years as a youth worker for a church project in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Cameron trained as a primary school teacher in Aberdeen. After graduation, Cameron returned to Edinburgh to work as a primary school teacher, spending almost thirteen years at Leith Walk Primary School.
Whilst working as a teacher in Edinburgh, Cameron successfully completed a theology degree from Oxford Brookes University as a distance learner.
Cameron said: “It is with great excitement that I come to serve my title post at St Mary’s, Cockerton in Darlington. I had grown up with the firm expectation from everyone around me that I would go pretty straight into ordained ministry. As a teenager, I thought this was very much what God was calling me to do at the time.
“After leaving school and enjoying a gap year, I started a theology degree but hated every moment of it. I struggled to engage with the course and did not connect with the other candidates training for ministry. I felt very alone and isolated and decided that I had completely misinterpreted my sense of calling. I felt a failure and decided that I could never possibly be the sort of person God would ever call into ordained ministry.
“Thankfully, I was offered a position as a youth worker and this helped to re-ignite my faith and reorient my sense of vocation as a teacher. This challenge led me to grow and develop as a person, understanding that teaching and working with young people is a core aspect of my vocation.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music Cameron said: “My favourite song is ‘Crazy in Love’ by Beyoncé as every time I hear it I smile and just have to dance!“
Paul Arnold, Preston on Tees
Paul Arnold, 39, said: “I went to school in Bracknell and studied English, French and History at A-level, going on to read Law at University in Aberystwyth. Despite having been on the PCC as a youth representative and having been to Uganda on mission during my teenage years, I found myself drifting away from Church whilst at university, tempted by the ‘fun’ that could be had. It wasn’t until the end of my second year, when I met my wife, Elizabeth, that I returned to Church and again found faith in Christ.
“On the day I braved my first church service in Aberystwyth, the sermon was about the Prodigal Son and I remember feeling an immense sense of love and peace as I prayed for forgiveness during the service as if I was coming home.
“I studied to become a Criminal Barrister in London, and attempted to practice for three years, but a large loan to pay for the training was looming and crime really doesn’t pay. So I applied for the Government Fast Stream and ended up working in the Cabinet Office for ten years.
“During this time 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 they told me I would make a fantastic priest.
“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. “
asked about his favourite piece of music Paul said: “That is a really hard question, and it really depends on the mood I am in. I love to kick back with some classical music and have been relearning Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata at the moment. I love its chilled out tranquillity, it is a really vulnerable piece of music.
“I also love a bit of rock: Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, ACDC through to Nirvana, Radiohead and Oasis. I love to have this playing on a summer’s day when I am driving, particularly Voodoo Chile (slight return), or Red House, both by Hendrix which I used to try to play – I also just love some of the raw emotion in that genre.
“If I had to pick one though, it would be between Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and Vincent by Don McLean. Both of these tell stories, but do it in a way where the music brings out the emotion really well. Jeff Buckley’s voice is superb on Hallelujah and Don McLean’s lyrics to Vincent touch on something really deep about how an artist notices things.”
Alexander Crawford, Gateshead, St Helens & Bensham, St Chad
Alexander Crawford, 30 was born in Melbourne, Australia, and moved to the Midlands when aged eight. He first came to Durham in 2008 to study theology. Alexander worked at Durham Cathedral for four years with the Precentor, assisting with the Cathedral’s liturgical life.
Alexander said: “I have always been a Christian, and have been brought up in the Church – with my father and grandfather both priests, too – so I haven’t experienced the ‘Damascus road’ moment my brother and sister ordinands often talk of so movingly. What I have felt is the irresistible growth of God’s love within me over many years, in every stage of life, and the joyful realisation that I cannot do anything else in this life except share some of God’s incredible love with those I meet and serve him as a deacon and priest in his Church.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music, Alex said: “Well the first CD I ever bought was ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC, but perhaps that’s a bad omen for a new priest… I’m into all sorts of music, but really love listening to, and singing, choral music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Anything by Byrd, Tallis, Tomkins, Palestrina, Victoria, and many more.”
Michelle Delves, Stranton All Saints
Michelle Delves, 51, says that the majority of her employment has been in the field of Domestic Abuse support work. She worked in Refuges, Outreach and also facilitated training events for Specialist Domestic Abuse Police Officers and Social Workers. She worked alongside the local authorities in Dorset to facilitate the first Domestic Abuse awareness raising course for teachers and pupils at several schools across the area, as part of the PHSE curriculum.
She said: “In March 2010 I went to work one morning and my work colleague Sue told me she’d had a dream about me being ordained as a pioneer minister. Neither of us knew what the term pioneer minister meant back then so I spoke to my vicar about it. She told me that she had felt for a long time that I had a calling to ministry. I was still very unsure but the confirmations just kept coming. They came from family members, people who I really respected within my church family and even people I had only just met.”
Asked about her favourite piece of music, Michelle said: “The Hymn ‘Lord of Sea and Sky’. I love this hymn because it has spoken so deeply into my sense of calling since I first heard it over 10 years ago now.”
Brenda Forrester, Washington
After leaving university, her first career was working with people with autism. She returned to university to study counselling, which she moved into upon qualifying, working with substance misuse in GP surgeries. Immediately prior to being a stay-at-home mum, she founded and ran a substance misuse department in a secure unit for young people. She has since worked as an artist and helped run her husband’s landscaping business.
Brenda said: “My journey into faith began in earnest in 2008, attending a series of J. John events called ‘Just 10’. I had always had a belief in God in some way, but my spirituality was very eclectic. Something J. John said in his talk made sense to me. After asking Jesus into my life in April of that year, I had not expected what came next. As Jesus and the Bible came alive, encouraged by my baptism visitor and a close friend, I began to attend Parish South, a church plant of St. Mary’s and St. Cuthbert’s in Hermitage school hall. I joined a cell group which both my baptism visitor and friend attended, then was asked to sing in the worship band, which I loved.
“In 2009, I was working towards opening an art gallery in Chester-le-Street, when God seemed to be saying these words, ‘Become a vicar’. I laughed. I had tattoos, listened to heavy rock music and had been a Christian for a year, I did not feel like ‘vicar’ material. After laughing for a year, every time the thought arose, my patient curate suggested I read the criteria for ordination. I didn’t even know what that meant, but after research, and trying hard to rule myself out, I realised I might be a fit after all.”
Asked about her favourite piece of music, Brenda said: “My call to ordination was accompanied by the hymn, ‘I, the Lord of Sea and Sky’.
“As I approach my first Eucharist, I find myself drawn to the hymn, ‘Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence’, as the thought of presiding at the altar feels like an awesome and incredible responsibility, a feeling this hymn engenders.”
Clive Hall, Stranton All Saints
In 2003, they moved to Hartlepool. Working with Churches Together they decided to start a Foodbank. With the help of Trussell Trust, they registered as a charity and obtained two properties. They now employ two people and have 55 volunteers. Clive is the chair for the trust.
Clive said: “I do feel I want to be more than a deacon because I have a deep desire to Baptise and to be able to officiate at the Eucharist. I feel like I have been on a journey and it is one that is making me see things with new eyes.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music, Clive said: “The Lords my Shepherd, by Stuart Townsend. This one has the chorus in it that says ‘I will trust in you alone’
“The Lyrics are written in such a way, that I feel I wrote this song myself. It makes my heart move when I sing it. Plus in the chorus, it is sung with the males leading and the females echoing. It gives this song a harmonic edge to it. The music and sound of this song make it special.”
Mark Harrison, Chester le Street
He and his family moved to Merseyside and he became the Pastor of an Evangelical Church and then a Church Plant. In 2008 they were back in Stockton, now living in an idyllic setting of country lanes, farming smells and a very quiet life.
He said: “From this tranquillity, God led us to All Saints Church, Preston-on-Tees to join with this church led by Rev John Lambert, a contemporary from Moorlands College. From the very first service, I knew that this place was like coming home and an opportunity to put down roots in a place that Julie and I just loved. At this time, I was working as an Applications Engineer in engineering plastics and once again I sensed the call of God on my life to ministry. In 2013 I resigned from a job that I had been doing for eight years and in that same year became a member of the Church Staff Team. In 2016, and after a two-year process of discernment, God laid on my life the opportunity to train for Anglican Ministry.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music Mark said: “As a musician that’s not an easy one. As a solo cornet player, the Brass Band music ‘Deep Harmony’. I have chosen this because it is a slow and moving piece that whispers into the musician’s ear and touches the listener’s heartstrings. My favourite Hymn. ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’, Martin Luther. Not played on the organ, but on an acoustic and a vibrant electric guitar and softly sung.”
Pouya Heidari, Bishopwearmouth, St Gabriel
For Pouya Heidari, 34, ordination, is something that is a far cry from what was a promising professional football career in his native Iran. Pouya fled the country at the age of 24 following his conversion to Christianity.
Pouya said: “I was born in a place that enforced religion on people, so sports and especially football was my way to find an escape. I left my home country by becoming a professional footballer. Naturally, ordination or even Christian faith wasn’t something I ever considered at the time.
“But then I met Jesus who transformed my life and my journey as a follower of Christ began. In the meantime, I had returned to my home town and naturally had to share my discovery of Jesus with the people around me.
Asked about his favourite piece of music, Pouya said: “The call from Narnia. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone on the battlefield when Jesus and other friends walk alongside us.”
Philip Murray, Stockton on Tees, St Peter and Elton
Philip Murray, 30, was born in the village of Castleside, just outside Consett. At the age of 18 he moved to Cambridge to read Law at Corpus Christi College, staying on after his Law degree to study for a PhD in the history of English administrative law. After his PhD, he worked for two years as a university academic in Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of St John’s College.
He said: “My family started attending church regularly when I was about ten, but I turned away from the faith as a teenager and wasn’t particularly interested in church for a good while after that. As an undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, I started to attend the College Chapel for Evensong every so often. There was something in the beautiful choral music, and the cadences of Cranmer and Coverdale, that I found attractive, though I still considered myself agnostic to the faith.
“All of this changed in the spring of 2011 when I was in the first year of my PhD. I remember watching the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on television and being overawed by the majesty of it all: the music; the ancient liturgy; the amazing ritual. It’s really embarrassing to say I was re-converted to Christianity by the royal wedding, but I think it really could be true! The sheer beauty of it all communicated something of the transcendent: that there is ‘something more’ than what we initially perceive in the world. Suddenly the possibility of God seemed more credible, and I had a clear sense that I was being called back to church.”
Paul Paterson, Hawthorn & Murton
Paul Paterson, 69, is the eldest of three brothers and was born and raised in Sunderland, educated locally, married with two children, who each have two children. He trained in accountancy, worked in various businesses, most recently in the finance industry. Interests have included aviation (not active lately) and motorcycling – currently, a volunteer rider and driver for Northumbria Bloodbikes – as well as gardening, walking and spending time with grandchildren.
Paul said: “When, as a churchwarden, (one Friday) I discovered that we would have no priest to take the service on Sunday, I found myself (with no experience) volunteering to take it. Having done so, I realised that this is what I should be doing; this view was also reached by members of the congregation. As I was still working, I took this call to ministry to be as Reader; during Reader training, I was encouraged to train full-time for ministry, which I then did at Cranmer. I was subsequently licensed as a Reader, however, and served as such for ten years or so until the incumbent of our church retired and, the church being in vacancy, it was suggested that I might consider ordination, which I did, being ordained as a Deacon at Michaelmas 2018. This service was unique for two reasons … it was the first time a service of ordination had been conducted in the 156 year history of St Michael & All Angels Church, Hawthorn and, second, it was the first service of ordination that the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev’d Paul Butler, had conducted away from the cathedral.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music, Paul said: “My music tastes are many and varied – from Jacques Loussier and Stjepan Hauser to Eric Clapton and Queen – but I am currently listening to Mischa Maisky playing the Bach Cello Suite No1 in G minor, which makes me tingle!”
Maeve Sherlock, Durham, St Nicholas
Maeve said: “A sense of calling, brought me to ministry, I tried ignoring it for years but that didn’t work. But for me, my biggest challenge is combining ministry with a day job is always a challenge but there’s an added complexity when the two are 300 miles apart!
“For me, God, A need for coffee, and a desire to make a difference, to join in with what God is doing in our society are the things that get me out of bed in the morning”
Asked about her favourite piece of music, Maeve said: “That would have to be Schubert’s String Quintet for its beauty and emotional range.“
DEACONS – To be ordained 30th June 2019, Durham Cathedral
Those to be ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Durham,
The Right Reverend Paul Butler in Durham Cathedral at
10.00am on Sunday 30th June 2019
Town for media info
Croxdale, Tudhoe and Merrington
Barnard Castle and Whorlton
Norton, St Mary and St Michael
Stockton & Norton
Durham, St Nicholas
Belmont and Pittington
Spennymoor and Whitworth (Spennymoor Group Ministry)
Daniel Ackerley – Croxdale, Tudhoe and Merrington
Daniel Ackerley, 27, was born and brought up as part of a close family in Stockton-on-Tees. After leaving school and college, he worked for a short time as a semi-professional musician, teaching and performing. For the past 8 years, he has been Principal Funeral Director at John Duckworth’s- a small, family firm in Sunderland and South Shields.
He said: “From a young age, I was a chorister at St Peter’s Church in Stockton-on-Tees, which gave me a love for God, the Church and liturgy. My faith grew and developed whilst at Ian Ramsey School and I became involved with the Christian Union. People began to ask me if I was going to be a vicar. As a schoolboy, this seemed ridiculous but as time went on, the sense of call grew and wouldn’t go away.
“It feels like all of a sudden, I am here! I am very much looking forward to serving the parishes of Croxdale, Tudhoe and Kirk Merrington as a self-supporting curate as I continue with my role as a Funeral Director.”
Asked what his favourite piece of music is he said: “I have so many favourite pieces of music and it’s almost impossible to whittle it down to one. The hymn that keeps coming back to me is “Brother, Sister Let Me Serve You”. For me, the hymn beautifully sums up what I believe God is calling each of us to do.”
Rory Balfour – Hillside
Rory Balfour, 26, was born in a vicarage in Peckham, South East London, where his father remains a vicar. Through his university years at Durham, he was heavily involved in Church, Christian Union (CU), youth work and missions both in the university and with para-church organisations. He moved to Rutland to work as an assistant chaplain at a school and then went to Ridley Hall in Cambridge to begin training for ordination. Whilst at Ridley Hall, he started exploring a vocation to academic study and, as a result of this, applied to postpone his ordination date to begin work, back in Durham, on a PhD.
He said: “I have now had two years in Durham working on a PhD in Old Testament theology and being part of the community at Cranmer Hall. I take my studies with me into curacy.
“I feel called to talk to people about Jesus and see people align their lives more fully with his Word, with his plans and with his purposes.“
Asked about his favourite music, Rory says: “I love Thunder Road – by Bruce Springsteen – it’s hopeful, but on a more spiritual note – I also love When He Returns – by Bob Dylan.”
Sarah Cliff – Barnard Castle and Whorlton
Sarah Cliff, 52, was born and brought up in Darlington, leaving school at 16 to start work as a trainee dental nurse and later in credit control, working mainly in engineering and transport sectors. Her last role before full-time ministerial training was as a credit manager for a PLC. Sarah is married to Gary and has one adult daughter.
She said: “I do not come from a church family but around the age of 11 I was aware of God’s presence and took myself off to the nearest church to find out more. I found myself in my local parish church and there I was nurtured and grown in faith. God’s call on me came later in life; first to Reader ministry and then ever louder until I gave in and started to discern a call to ordained ministry.
“Training for ordination has been scary and challenging but a brilliant experience and one I am very privileged to have received. It brought its own challenges in living away from home and my family during the week, leaving full-time employment for the first time in 34 years and sharing living facilities! I see the move into full-time ministry as a continuation of the challenge to show that Jesus is the way the truth and the life to people who do not yet know the fullness of Him.”
Asked about her favourite piece of music Sarah said: “How can I choose just one! I am a real magpie with music; loving Motown, disco, the eighties and anything I can sing or dance along to. Probably my favourite is “Reach Out” by the Four Tops, great to dance to, the lyrics are really good, and it makes me smile. Only recently did I discover it was number one the week I was born. For worship I have a number of real favourite belt out hymns, ‘Thine be the glory’ and ‘Guide me thou o great redeemer’. I wish I was a better singer but what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm and volume. “
Jane Easterby – Norton, St Mary and St Michael
Jane Easterby, 54, was born near Corbridge, in the Tyne Valley and was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Throckley. Her family lived in Rowlands Gill and in 1973, moved to Leeds. She studied European Studies at Hull University and spent a year at the University of Avignon in France, before joining Courtaulds Textiles as a management trainee. She has worked in France and the UK in Sales & Design roles. In 1998, she completed an MSc in Recreation Management, based in the Department of Sports Science and the Business School at Loughborough University.
After leaving Loughborough, She moved to Cumbria and had a number of part-time jobs, including lecturing in Business, Management and languages at the local university and college, running a music school and managing the parish centre at St. Andrew’s, Penrith for four years.
She returned to the North East to retrain as a Primary Teacher in 1995 spending 8 years as a primary teacher with a variety of curriculum and management responsibilities, including music, RE, PSHCE, Humanities and International Coordinator. She led two schools to gain the highest level of the International School Award, developing connections between schools in India, South Africa, Holland and the North East through the British Council.
Jane left teaching in 2013 when she was appointed Director of the Durham and Newcastle diocesan retreat house, Shepherds Dene. Recently, she has begun a new ministry, working as a hospital chaplain at North Tees University Hospital and after ordination, will serve my title in the benefice of St. Mary and St. Michael, Norton.
Commenting on what brought her to ministry Jane said: “it was a call from God in 1995, a desire to discover what purpose God has for me in my life, and then more than 20 years of exploring and discernment and the affirmation, encouragement and support of friends and family.”
Asked about her favourite piece of music she said: “I have always been very musical person, writing my own hymns and songs, and achieved grade 8 on the piano whilst at school. I was confirmed at St. Edmunds Church, Roundhay, where I was also a Sunday school teacher.
“I don’t have a single favourite piece of music – I have several, including two Stuart Townend songs (‘Vagabonds’ and ‘Lead on, lead on’). However, I played in an ecumenical praise band called ‘Revelation’ for some time and we used to sing a ‘Hillsong’ song called ‘Joy in the Holy Ghost’. I have picked this, as it is a lively, vibrant and joyful song, which reminds me of how God makes me feel, how important the Holy Spirit has been in my journey and how I wish everyone could feel when they think of our amazing, triune God. Towards the end, the music seems to end, then suddenly and surprisingly, comes back to life. This reminds me of the way God sometimes acts in our lives in the most surprising ways…when we least expect it!”
Claire Elwood – Durham, St Nicholas
Claire Eastwood, 50, was born in Southport, Merseyside and spent her early years in Northern Ireland in the height of ‘The Troubles’. She has lived in the East Midlands for 31 years. She is married to Tim, a photographer, whom she met in Nottingham when she was training as a nurse. She has worked with pregnant teenagers and delivered private postnatal support services on a self-employed basis. Claire and Tim have 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren.
Asked about what her to ordained ministry Claire said: “ I felt the need for some theological training to accompany a ministry amongst students and others within the night-time economy of Nottingham City Centre. That led me to the Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Leadership and Ministry course and whilst studying with them I began to discern, despite my best efforts to avoid it, a further call to ordained ministry.”
Asked about her favourite piece of music she said: “I’m more of a film person and one of my firm favourites is a French film, The Untouchables. Based on a true story, the themes of acceptance, not judging by appearances and forgiveness are portrayed intelligently, sensitively and with considerable humour. It challenges me to see a person beyond the initial appearance they present to the world.”
Daniel Hudson – Great Aycliffe
Daniel Hudson, 43, was born in Harrow, Middlesex. After leaving school, he studied IT at college and then Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at Sussex University, going on to work in IT for 20 years as a web developer before leaving to study at Wycliffe Hall.
He said: “A few years ago, I was able to take a year out of my career to explore the world a little — I found myself travelling to America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where I lived for a year. During that time, I tried a number of things I’d never done before, such as skydiving, scuba diving, white water rafting, hiking over glaciers and many other things. It was great fun.
I became a Christian in 2009, not long after taking my year out and discovering that, for all the experiences I had over that time, my life still felt very empty. Coming to Christ felt in many ways like coming home. Not long after I walked back into my childhood church after a 20-year hiatus, I began to sense a pull towards ordained ministry, though I did not discern it as such then. I would spend the next five or six years finding myself in various positions of leadership, with a stint as churchwarden, co-leading the youth work, preaching, serving as a Street Pastor team lead, and various other roles that I can now see were preparing me for the next step — and as I did so, the pull to serve in ordained ministry became stronger.
“Three years ago, I began to explore with my vicar whether ordained ministry was indeed where God was calling me. For me, it turned out to be a relatively straightforward and quick discernment process — around nine months — before I found myself at Wycliffe Hall. My journey to this point has been sometimes hard and sometimes costly, whilst also being joyous and immensely rewarding — I feel extremely blessed and very thankful to God for every step of it.
Asked about his favourite piece of music Daniel said: “This is a tricky question as I’m not sure I have a favourite piece of music per se, as I listen to a lot of different genres and I’m usually trawling Spotify for new things. If I were to choose one classical piece, though, it would be Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo which was my late dad’s favourite piece and which I have loved for years. Regarding more contemporary music, I discovered a band called Passenger last year and really enjoy their music. I’m also a big Coldplay fan — their songs are very catchy and are real anthems.”
Elizabeth Hollis – Belmont and Pittington
Elizabeth (Liz) Hollis, 27, went to school in Lichfield where she grew up. She obtained a BA Hons first from Exeter in German and French, and then spent a year in Berlin, where she had her first full-time job and her first experience of living in another country.
Liz said: “The year abroad was a really important year for me in many ways. At the end of this year, I spent some time with the Taize Community in France which greatly inspired me. After Exeter, I moved up to Durham to start a Masters in Translation Studies. It was during this year that I began to feel a strong sense of calling to ministry so after I’d finished the course I went to London to do a year-long ministry experience scheme in Hackney. This was another really significant year and a great time. I then moved straight from London to starting at Cranmer Hall in 2016.
“I grew up going to church every week and faith has always played a central part in my life. My mum was licensed as a lay-reader when I was small and was very active in our local church. Whether or not I realised this at the time, I think her ministry was an important influence for me.
Liz says that Her main hobby is singing which she loves! She particularly enjoys singing in choirs and working together with other people as well as baking cakes!
Asked about her favourite piece of music Liz said: “This is probably cheating as it’s about 2 hours long but I really love Handel’s Messiah. It’s fantastic to listen to and a lot of fun to sing. It’s also amazing to hear basically the whole of salvation history set to incredible music.”
Anthony Smith – Spennymoor and Whitworth (Spennymoor Group Ministry)
Anthony Smith, 38, grew up in Hitchin in Hertfordshire. He obtained his first degree in Maths from Cambridge, where he was also an organ scholar before going on to Sussex University for his MSc in Cosmology and a PhD in astronomy. He moved to York where he married Eline and worked in computer software development. He trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall in Durham.
Anthony said: “Despite having been in church services most weeks for all of my life, by the time I was ten I was a firm atheist and thought this religious stuff was a load of nonsense. But I think I wanted to believe, not least because I was getting very keen on church music and playing the organ. When I was 15, I started going to the youth group of a local Bible-believing church. In 1996 this church held a youth service. The preacher’s text was Luke 9:23: (Then he [Jesus] said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.) He encouraged us to commit our lives to God, and I did so, out of a real sense of God drawing me to himself.
“When I came to a living faith at age 15, it was a very powerful moment in my life, and I knew God was calling me to follow him with my whole life. For a long time, I thought that might mean me serving God as an academic astronomer. I’m deeply committed to the importance of Christians serving God in all areas of life. But I found that my heart wasn’t fully in astronomy. I had been very involved in the life of my local church and had a year between some bits of study when I worked for that church. That gave me some initial experience at various aspects of church ministry: preaching, leading Bible studies, pastoral visiting, various aspects of practical service. I carried on serving in those areas when I returned to university, and gradually it became clear that my heart lay in church-based Christian ministry.
“I had grown up in the Church of England, but at this point, I was in an independent evangelical church and then joined a Baptist church when I moved to a different part of the country. But as I thought about which church I wanted to offer myself to serve in, it became clearer and clearer that the Church of England was the right place for me.”
Asked about his favourite piece of music Anthony said: “There are many Christian songs that I love. One of my favourites would be ‘There is a day’ by Nathan Fellingham and Phatfish. The first line is, ‘There is a day that all creation’s waiting for’. It’s a song about the second coming of Jesus, which isn’t about us escaping the world and going to heaven forever, but it’s about the whole creation being renewed and transformed to be a place that is filled with God’s glory. It’s that hope for the future that keeps me going when life is tough.
My favourite composer is J. S. Bach, and his magnificent Mass in B Minor would be one of my favourite pieces. Bach often wrote S.D.G. at the end of his pieces: Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone. If you wanted to represent the glory of God in music, then Bach’s Mass in B Minor would take you pretty close!”