Twenty-Eight people from diverse walks of life and all ages from twenty-four to seventy-one will be ordained as Priests and Deacons in the Diocese of Durham at ceremonies to be staged at Durham Cathedral this coming weekend July 3rd and 4th 2021.
Ordinations for Priests are being held on Saturday 3rd July at 5pm and Deacons on Sunday 4th July at 10am. Both services will strictly observe the Government’s COVID Guidance.
Those to be ordained Priest by the Bishop of Durham, The Right Reverend Paul Butler
|Hilary Avent||Hetton Lyons with Eppleton, St Michael and St Nicholas|
|Philip Carter||Castleside, St John and Benfieldside, St Cuthbert|
|Graham Copley||Hunwick and Willington|
|Tommy Daglish||Stanley and South Moor (Derwentside East Group Ministry)|
|John D’Silva||Houghton le Spring, St Michael and All Angels|
|Elaine Gray||Hebburn, St John with Jarrow Grange, Christ Church in plurality|
|Rosemary Hendry||Crawcrook Church of the Holy Spirit and Greenside, St John|
|Wim Kuiper||Sunderland, St Matthew and St Wilfrid|
|Stephanie Price||Bishop Auckland|
|Hannah Richardson||Peterlee, St Cuthbert|
|Mahalha Wachepa||Durham North Team Ministry|
|Alison Williams||Wheatley Hill, Thornley and Wingate with Hutton Henry|
Hilary Avent said: “My first calling to formal ministry was to Reader ministry – the call from God as a layperson, to preach, teach, lead worship and be involved in the church’s ministry in other ways. I trained from 1997-2000 and was licensed in the Cathedral in September 2000.
“I have been married to Grahame for 9 years after meeting him on holiday in Crete in 2003. I have a daughter, Clare from my first marriage. Clare lives in a small village called Hook, which is just outside Goole in East Yorkshire with her husband James and Bruce their English bulldog.
“Grahame and I have lived in Houghton-le-Spring since 2009, but we worship at St. Michael’s in Easington Lane, in the Parish of Hetton Lyons with Eppleton. I have attended St Michael’s for many years, joining a few years after moving to Easington Lane in 1965 and returning after the breakdown of my first marriage. I soon became involved in various activities, including teaching in Sunday School and being a PCC member. Grahame joined the congregation after he moved from Stevenage prior to our marriage and we married in our church, surrounded by our family, friends and church family in 2011. I have been a Licensed Reader in the parish for almost 20 years.
“My working life has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of roles, from being a Civil Servant at the beginning of it, then to self-employment, running a retail outlet, working as a florist and managing the family business with my father who sadly died in 1992. I then moved into training and education, working in various roles, qualifying as an assessor, then a lecturer in a Further Education College and ending my career as a manager in a training company, from which I retired in November 2015.
“I’m afraid retirement didn’t really appeal, so when the opportunity of applying for a part-time role as Community Development Worker with Hetton New Dawn, a Faith in the Community charity closely linked to the church, came up in 2016 after the sudden death of the previous worker, I applied and was offered the role. I have been working for the charity since then and also volunteer as a Coordinator of Loaves & Fishes foodbank.”
Philip Carter Was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire in 1950, the elder of two sons. His father was a civil servant and moved around as vacancies and promotions took their course. His mother was a housewife but took some part-time work with the civil service when available.
He said: “In 1961 I passed my 11+ and won a place at Sir Thomas’s Rich’s Grammar School in Gloucester where my father was then posted. In 1962 we moved to Wolverhampton and I attended the Wednesfield Technical Grammar School. I gained 9 “O” Levels in 1966 and three “A” levels in 1968. I read a joint honours degree in Botany and Geology at Durham, gaining an upper second in 1971.
“I met my wife, Jean, to whom I have now been married for 48 years whilst at university in Durham. We have two daughters, Kathryn, A GP in Houghton-le-Spring, and Jennifer who works as a financial clerk for a charity in North Shields. We now have two grandsons.
“Both my wife and I became teachers, Jean in special needs, and I joined the staff of the then Whinney Hill School in Durham as a science teacher. I moved to the Durham Johnston School in 1979 where I was given responsibility for the teaching of General Science. I rose through the ranks, firstly as Head of Biology and then, in 1999, Head of Science, leading a department of 12/13 teachers and the school’s 4 technical staff.
“In 2007, following retirement, a visiting priest taking the service during an interregnum whispered to me at the end of the Eucharist that I should ”look after them”. As a result of his remark, I enrolled with NEOC on the Readers’ course and I was licensed to the Parish of St John in Castleside in 2010.
“I have always been involved in the community. As graduates living in a category D ex-mining community, my wife and I were often asked to read and write letters for our neighbours and to explain the contents of letters from the local authority or the Social Services and Employment agencies as required. I was the secretary of the local residents’ association for 6 years. I helped to run community events and the local carnival. I now act as chaplain to the local Air Training Corps Squadron.
“Perhaps I am the type of person who needs to be told that others see in me something that I do not always see in myself. In 2018 the Area Dean told me that I should explore ordination. During conversations with local area deans, retired clergy and my own parish priest, the response has often been ‘I wondered how long it would take ‘, or ‘what took you so long?’ The fact that they could see in me more than I could see in myself has convinced me that this is where my somewhat belated vocation lies. I now desire to be more useful to God, my parish and God’s people.”
Graham Copley was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, in 1962. He said: “I left school aged 16, doing various labouring jobs before becoming a postman. In 2001 I moved to rural County Durham. I am married, have two grown-up children and two dogs.”
Graham trained for ordination at Lindisfarne College of Theology.
Tommy Daglish said: “I became a Christian through prayer around the age of 10. I met my wife Donna when we were both 16 and have two beautiful daughters Tabitha and Mia. Before training I was a civil servant for 13 years and felt a strong calling to ministry about 6 years ago.
“I trained at Cranmer Hall and I had the best time of my life!
“When our first daughter Tabitha was born, I reflected a lot on my life. I wanted to be the best dad I could be, and to be that I knew I had to be the best Christian I could be. I always felt called to ministry ever since I was at school, but never felt smart enough or worthy enough. Then I felt God showing me that all the barriers were things I put in place, not him and I could do this. I had tremendous help from many people along the way and it felt like I was on the right path.”
Asked what gets him up in the morning, Tommy said: “As soon as I wake up I say a little prayer just thanking God for a new day and all my blessings and asking that I am able to do what he wants me to do that day and to give me the strength I need for the work at hand.”
John D’Silva grew up in Rotherham. He left to go to university in Durham where he studied maths and chemistry. While studying, he began to discern a vocation to ordained ministry. He trained for ordination at Westcott House.
John said: “I enjoyed studying physical sciences, but I found that I was more interested in what was happening at church than the jobs that were available to me. A chaplain at the university suggested I go look at an internship in a group of churches in Sunderland. After a few months there it became increasingly clear to me that ordained ministry was the right way forward.”
Elaine Gray trained for ordination with Lindisfarne College of Theology. She said: “I live on my own now but spend a lot of time with my two wonderful daughters and
four amazing grandchildren, who certainly keep me fit. I have always been a very active person, thriving in playing outside and engaging in a variety of sports during my youth.
“I have worked for the local government of South Tyneside since 2007, the majority of that time as a homelessness case worker. This often involves working in crisis situations, with those that have been marginalised and also have complex needs.
A role that can be very challenging and both emotionally and physically draining has also brought great blessing. There have been many wonderful stories of success, when those that had lost all hope, managed with some help, to turn their life around.
There are sadly many distressing ones also, though being a Christian has really helped me and helped me to help others when dealing with such tragedies.
“Since becoming a Christian 10 years ago I have a whole new family and take great delight in spending time involved in church activities and events, which obviously spills out into the community.
“Having Jesus in my life has made the relationship with my own daughters and grandchildren even richer. We have all come to faith in this relatively short time and no matter what challenges we have, we work through it together with Jesus in the midst of it all.
“Although my individual calling has been to one of ordained ministry, nothing is more important than the first calling, that is the one to follow Jesus. That’s what has brought me to ministry, my desire to tell people about Jesus and to help make more disciples.
“Returning to academic studies after such a long time has also posed its challenges and in the first year, it was like pushing a huge boulder up a hill! But after that, although it has been exhausting at times it has been rewarding to be challenged in that area. Balancing my studies with a demanding job and continuing to give quality time to my family has been extremely difficult at times. It highlighted the importance of looking after my own personal well being and taking the necessary time to rest.”
Rosemary Hendry I was born in Rowlands Gill, part of a family of four boys and three girls, which taught her how to share from an early age.
She said: “We had little in terms of money but enjoyed great fellowship! Mam baked bread and cakes each week and friends could always be invited home for tea, after school.
On Sunday mornings I’d usually be with my hard-working, organised mother in St. Barnabas Church at Rowlands Gill. Although church members were friendly and I appreciated ‘The Stations of the Cross’, I didn’t understand who the ‘Holy Ghost’ was. That understanding was to come much later.
“If I was with my father on a Sunday morning, we’d travel to the Quayside Market in Newcastle and afterwards frequent a pub where the Law Courts stand today. Whilst Dad enjoyed a pint, I’d enjoy a drink of juice and The Observer newspaper to read, as I patiently waited for him. Ironically, I believe that gave birth to my love of reading, which has never left me.
“I’ve been married to Mike for 25 years. We work well together as a team. In the early 90s, we ran a youth club. In the late 90s, we volunteered to set up a bible college in a deprived area of Nairobi. I gained employment in the Consular Section of the British High Commission, on local Kenyan rates of pay, but free use of their swimming pool!
“One adventure lasted several years, in learning beekeeping to enable eight Malawian men to set up a beekeeping business in Malawi. Today ‘Azunguya’ operates a maize mill, which the village lacked, financed by friends, family and Greenside Parish. I am indebted to Mike’s practical skills and family in Malawi, which enabled this vision to flourish.
“Whilst on holiday a few years ago in the Dominican Republic, I embarked on a course to obtain the PADI diving certificate, which entailed me having to overcome a great fear of drowning, a sense of being unable to breathe or ‘reach the surface’ in time.
“The last three years have been spent with husband Mike, studying with Lindisfarne College of Theology – a great adventure of learning, friendships and formation.”
Wim Kuiper was born and grew up in Zwolle (Netherlands) as the youngest of four. He graduated in Social Sciences and Law and finished his PhD in Political Science, as he was working as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Maastricht.
He said: “In this period my three children, Anne, Vincent and Clemens, now in their thirties, were born. I also have three grandchildren, aged 1, 2 and 7. I was elected as a full-time local politician in the city of Maastricht in 1993. After eight years I became the policy director of the Dutch Local Government Association. In the cause of a painful divorce in 2007, my faith deepened and I found my church home in the Church of England, first in The Hague and then in Utrecht. Before moving to Cambridge to start theological training in 2018, I was the director of the Dutch Association of Protestant and Catholic Schools.
“A few years ago I was discerning what kind of job the Lord was asking me to do in this phase of my working life. To my own surprise, I experienced a strong sense of calling to the priesthood. I was brought up with the church, but there has also been a period in my life where I had lost the connection. Later in life, I rediscovered how important the church is for me, in good and bad times. It offers a place to meet God in word and sacrament, to sense the community with my fellow Christians and to bring faith, hope and love into the wider society. Sharing and passing on the light of Christ is so much needed, especially in these challenging times. So I am looking forward to contributing to this through my ministry.”
Stephanie Price grew up in County Durham in a loving non-church going family, after a couple of enjoyable years living, studying and volunteering in Newcastle, she decided to leave and join HMRC working as a civil servant for sixteen years prior to training.
She said: “I am married to Ian, with two children (Oliver 15 and Jessica 11). I became a Christian after seeking baptism for my eldest and myself. I was confirmed and baptised, soon after the exploration and became an active member of the church serving and leading in various ways. After discernment I started training at Cranmer Hall in Durham, leaving the civil service to train full time, whilst remaining in our home.
“This has been an unexpected call on my life, and not something I had ever envisaged in my future. But once I came to faith and discovered I could have a relationship with Jesus, that I was loved and known by him, it changed my life and began to shape everything I did. I grew in relationship with God over the years and tried to faithfully serve his church.
“After many years of avoiding any kind of call on my life after a difficult time, I put my hands up and said to God, okay I’m yours, asking him to reveal and direct what he wanted me to do. With the support of my friends, family and church I accepted and discerned a call to ordained ministry. This still surprises me daily, a lot more than I think it surprises others, but I am excited to see where God will continue to lead me.”
Hannah Richardson grew up in Maidstone, Kent, before moving to Durham to study Theology at university in 2014. She said: ”I was not religious at this point; I had (what I thought was) a purely academic interest in the subject, but as I began my studies and met more Christians, I realised that I was being drawn into something deeper. I began attending St. Oswald’s, Durham in late 2015 and was baptised and confirmed the following summer. At the same time, even just before I was baptised, I started sensing a call to ordination. I initially shirked from it, since I thought I was too young in years and in my faith, but God had other ideas. I began discernment a few months later, and after graduation in 2017, I spent a year working as a Ministry Assistant in the Group of the Annunciation, Sunderland, as part of the Durham CEMES. Whilst there I continued my discernment to ordained ministry and was recommended for training in the spring of 2018.
“I’ve spent the past two years studying for ordination at Westcott House in Cambridge continuing my theological studies, and I’m really excited to be coming back to the diocese in which both my faith and vocation were nurtured.
“It’s the witness of other people which brought me to church and to Christ in the first place; it was other people who identified the vocation God has given me and who encouraged me in my discernment, and it’s other people who continue to support me and to show the love of God through their actions and their lives. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that life in all its abundance (John 10:10) is a fundamentally communal thing.
“One of my biggest challenges was stepping into a church for the first time. My perception of Christianity was mostly negative (with most of my exposure being to ultra-fundamentalist theology online), and I spent so long preparing myself to go and then bailing on a Sunday morning because I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in, especially with all the questions I had. But I received such a warm welcome and it was a relief to find out that wrestling with questions and seeking answers was a firm part of Christian discipleship and not something to be done fearfully and alone.”
Mahalha Wachepa was originally from Malawi, Southern East of Africa. Her name Mahalha means patience. She said: “I thank my parents for giving me this name which has inï¬‚uenced my personality and I am indeed patient.
“I was born and raised up in a large Christian family. My father is a retired priest and my late mother was a teacher. Together with my 12 siblings, we were baptised when we were children and attended Sunday School and church every Sunday. Growing up in a strong Christian home, I accepted Christ our Lord as my personal Saviour at an early age. I grew up facing diï¬€erent challenges, poverty, social inequality, gender inequality and violence, and poor healthcare facilities. Overcoming these were helped by my faith in God, praying every day and consistently. Prayer has been part of my life since young.
“I attended primary education in different schools, secondary education at St Mary’s and Mulanje, and tertiary education in Mzuzu, Malawi. I trained as a teacher and taught at Bambino and Lilongwe Academy Private Primary schools, then Chilambula and Chigoneka Community Secondary schools in Malawi.
“I am married to Dennis and have been blessed with 4 children aged 30, 23, 19 and 16, and a 10-year granddaughter.
“I came to the United Kingdom in 2002 with my family and lived in Leeds until 2010. My ï¬rst engagement was working as a volunteer at the school where my children attended. I was a classroom assistant for 2 years. I later moved to work as a health care assistant looking after the elderly with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. This was my ï¬rst experience working in health care services, my patience helped me in taking care of the elderly.
“I later moved from Leeds to Stockton-On-Tees in 2010, where I continued to work in health care services.”
Talking of her biggest challenge, Mahalha cites the loss of her 4-year old child to meningitis saying: “My faith has been really important to me, I was comforted by the Holy Spirit who strengthened me and helped me to keep my faith despite our loss.”
Alison Williams moved to the North East with Husband Vaughn and their three children to train at Cranmer Hall following a background in Missional Arts Participation, University Chaplaincy and Student Welfare. Thoroughly arty, she trod the boards of various theatre groups as well as flirting briefly with a wish to pursue a professional singing career. It was in her undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies with Drama and Theatre Studies, that she discovered an interdisciplinary way of working.
Alison said: “I tried very hard to ignore the call to ministry and I ran as far as I could for as long as I could! However, God is more stubborn than I am and here I am some 25 years later!! In fact it was during my first degree that I first began to come round to the nudgings towards ordained ministry.
“I think there have been various significant challenges thus far but they have never been without hope. Even in the darkest and most terrible of times, it might have been dim, but the glimmer of hope never burnt out. The challenge for me is embracing the brokenness and challenges alongside all the daily joys and blessings. However enormous and however small each may appear.
“Aspirationally, BBC Radio 4 gets me out of bed in the morning – In reality, the elbow of whichever child invaded my pillow over the course of the previous night! More fundamentally, the continuous, abundant grace of God and the wellspring of endless creative opportunities through which God knits the fabric of community together.”
Those to be ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Durham, The Right Reverend Paul Butler in Durham Cathedral
|Julia Bell||Stockton Parish Church|
|Christine Britcliffe||Lumley, Christ Church, Chilton Moor, St Andrew, East Rainton and West Rainton (in plurality)|
|Lloyd Brown||Darlington, St Hilda and St Columba and Darlington, St John|
|Steve Edge||Hartlepool, St Hilda|
|Edward Gunn||Auckland, St Helen|
|Deborah Hodge||Byers Green, St Peter, Croxdale and Tudhoe, Merrington|
|Dawn Hudson||Gateshead Fell, St John the Evangelist and Windy Nook|
|Alexander Jones||Gateshead, St George|
|Sarah Millican Jones||Gateshead, St George|
|Kath Long||Blackwell, All Saints and Salutation and Coniscliffe (in plurality)|
|David Lucas||Heighington, St Michael and Darlington, St Matthew and St Luke|
|Stephen Martin||Lanchester and Burnhope and Harelaw and Annfield Plain|
|Tim May||Monkwearmouth (Team Ministry)|
|Heather Ross||Upper Weardale|
|Susan Sweeting||Annunciation Group, Sunderland|
|Heather Wallace||St Luke, Pallion|
Julia Bell grew up in a house in London with two siblings and thirty-two teenage boys. She said: “ My father was housemaster at a boys’ school and I spent my youth split between outside fun (climbing trees and catching grasshoppers) and swatting away with my head in a book. Although I studied engineering, I prefer working with people to building things and my last job before ordination is leading a small team of leadership trainers in an international company. I have been influenced by living and working in different countries in Europe and the Middle East and love exploring culture and language. The move to Durham diocese means leaving my two children behind to continue their studies but I have persuaded my husband and my dog to come with me.
“I remember standing in front of the congregation to preach for the first time in 2014. I had mentioned to the chaplain that I would like to try preaching at one point and so he encouraged me to pick a date. As I stood there, it felt like somewhere I was meant to be. All the training at work for communication, leadership and strategic decisions came together with my own exploration of what faith means in daily life. This combination meant I had something to say to the group of worshippers in front of me. Ever since that moment, God has gently encouraged me to take one step at a time of exploring his plans for me. That led to initial thoughts of lay ministry, before my calling to ordained ministry (and finally stipendiary ministry) was confirmed.
“The biggest challenge over the past three years has been juggling study, work, church and family. There have been times when it has seemed impossible and it has not been easy to take time to be still and maintain contact with God in the midst of all the ‘doing things’.”
Christine Britcliffe was born in Walthamstow, East London and grew up with a younger brother, Mum and Dad in Highams Park, a leafy village, also in East London. She said: “I have fond memories of school and still have contact with some of the friends I made there. I left school at 17 to train as a telex operator for a shipping company in London’s West End, moving to Barclays in the City in the same role until I had my daughters in the early eighties. Now living in Leytonstone, I settled into being a stay-at-home Mum making friends locally at toddler groups, church and eventually school. I became a registered childminder to enable me to be at home for the girls who enjoyed the additional benefits of on tap playmates and babies to coo over.
I moved to Sunderland in 1996 with my partner Dawn, who is originally from the North East, and the two girls who settled well into their new secondary school. For a while I worked in call centers and then I began training to be a therapeutic counsellor. Meanwhile our family grew as we welcomed another daughter in 1998 and then a son in 2000. I was worshipping at Sunderland Minister and quickly became an active member of the congregation, eventually beginning the three-year training to be an Authorized Pastoral Assistant. On completing my counselling training, I took up a post as a counsellor in primary care mental health for the Tees Esk and Wear Valley foundation trust during which time I became intimately acquainted with the vagaries of the A19 as I was based first in Redcar and then in Middlesbrough.
“We moved from Sunderland to Houghton le Spring in 2011 where we began worshipping at St Michael and All Angels and soon became part of the family there. In 2014 I left my job as a counsellor to become the coordinator and eventually manager of the church outreach mission project Space4 – a time of immense happiness and fruitfulness both personally and spiritually. In 2016 Dawn took up the post of manager/caretaker for the Kepier Hall situated behind St Michael and All Angels Church in Houghton le Spring so we moved into the quirky three bedroomed flat that went with the job and immersed ourselves in more community-based work.
“In 2020 I felt it was time to move on from the project and was fortunate to get a post back with Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust but this time as a Chaplain based at Lanchester Road Hospital in Durham, thankfully the A19 doesn’t feature in that commute.
“Moving to the North East in the mid-nineties, joining a new church and some new friendships all contributed to me recognizing a strong call to serve God in a more practical way. I was encouraged to become more active in church life by doing readings, intercessions, joining the PCC and attending Diocesan events all of which alerted me to a strong sense that I was being called to ordained ministry.
“My biggest challenges have been staying with the process even when the road ahead seemed impossible. I also found it a bit of a challenge to balance work, study and family life at the beginning of my training. But by far the biggest challenge has been this last year when we have all been unable to be together because of the pandemic. From a training point of view this has meant valuable social time and shared experience has been missing and being together to sing and worship has been quite a hardship. However, we have all been operating in this relationship void and there has been much learning too.”
Lloyd Brown grew up in a non-religious home in the East of England. At school he was very interested in the study of religion and so afterwards I went off to Durham University to study Theology. He said: “After years of searching and exploring different religions, quite unexpectedly by the time I got to university I wanted to become a Christian, and began attending my local parish church. During my degree I spent a year studying at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where I met my wife, Mathilde. I subsequently spent two years on the Ministry Experience Scheme in Brussels, and then Louvain, before coming back to Durham where I have been training for ordained ministry.
“From the day I decided to become a Christian I felt the first nudge of God’s calling to be a priest, which was a total shock. Having not grown up in the Christian faith I spent a few years thinking I didn’t ‘fit the mould’ of a future priest. But God’s call was persistent and after a few years I could no longer ignore it and got in touch with my local Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) to enter the formal discernment process. That started a few more years of discovering what ordained ministry looked like, and above all discovering more about myself, and the fact that there wasn’t a set ‘mould’ I had to ‘fit’, but that God was calling me to offer myself as I am out of love for Christ who offered himself for me.
“There have been a great many challenges both internal and external on this journey. Discerning a vocation like this has required me to get uncomfortably familiar with my own flaws and weaknesses – things I’d spent the best part of my life ignoring. I’ve also seemed often to find myself in places I don’t seem to ‘fit’; as someone raised non-religious entering a very ‘churchy’ world, as a Brit living in Belgium, and as someone in the Catholic tradition training in Evangelical contexts. But through all these challenges I’ve been aware of the Spirit shaping in me a greater capacity to receive the gifts of God’s grace.”
Steve Edge was born in rural Norfolk, just outside of Norwich. Attended the village primary School, and grew up in a small and tight knit community.
He said: “I attended a state boarding school, still in rural Norfolk where I learned the value of independence, but also of community.
I studied Twentieth Century Russian history at university, and that continues to be a great passion for me.
“Having decided that teaching was not really for me, I spent a number of years in potato farming on the Suffolk coast, a beautiful area to work, and I learned from that the importance of arranging my lunch break around “The Archers”.
“Following my marriage to Debbie, A US Air Force veteran, in 2000, I took a job in Bury St Edmunds with a national hardware and kitchen company. I spent six years as a kitchen designer which I loved, before becoming an assistant branch manager. For much of that time, I was studying for the Lutheran ministry in Cambridge around my existing work commitments.
I was ordained in 2009, but stayed in my secular employment until 2012 when I accepted a call to move to Sunderland and take over St Timothy’s.
“I became a police chaplain in 2013, and Senior Force Chaplain to Northumbria Police in 2015, a role that is ongoing.
“Also in 2013 my wife and I were approved as foster carers and in December of that year took on a 14-year-old girl. This is, although she now has her own house, a continuing relationship, as she very rapidly simply became part of the family. We are currently supporting a seventeen-year-old girl who as a care leaver, is learning independent living skills while living with us.
My family now consists of my wife Debbie, step-daughter Sara, former foster daughter, Jade, current foster daughter Tamzin, grandson Christian, and cat Theo.
“ I was at the time in a job that I enjoyed, as a kitchen designer in a national company, a job in which I had won several national awards, and for which I was well paid. Family life was relaxed and comfortable, Church on Sundays, church events during the week, all was good. Then my priest said why don’t you train for the ministry? I laughed and ignored the suggestion, but then I found things going wrong. My prayer life dried up, I was no longer as happy in my job as I had been, I couldn’t relax, I didn’t feel fulfilled anymore.
“I finally gave in and said, “ok God, have it your way”, suddenly everything began to change for the better. I undertook several years of part time training for ministry, (in the Lutheran Church), and was ordained in 2009. After moving to the North East in 2012, I began to realise that the Lutheran Church was increasingly not the way in which I wanted to express my faith or ministry. I began the process again, and with the support of the Diocese of Durham transitioned From the Lutheran Church to The Church of England.”
Edward Gunn said: “For the past three years I have been studying with Lindisfarne College of Theology which has taken me to the Holy Land and Corrymeela in Northern Ireland. Each of these experiences have given me an opportunity to understand areas of conflict and to see faith in action as people live an incarnate life following Christ. However, without the support and prayers of my family the past few years would not have been possible.
“I married Emma in 2006 after meeting in 2003. She encouraged me to pursue a love of teaching which found me leaving London for the star-studded streets of Stockton and Queen’s Campus Durham University. After four years of study, I began a teaching career at Village Primary in Thornaby. However in 2010 life was never the same again when we welcomed our children, Aaron and Elisha, into our lives and our family was complete.
“Our Children were soon baptised at St Paul’s Spennymoor but our journey eventually took us to Christ the King Bowburn. Here the children grew in faith, especially Elisha as she found a true love for Jesus and the Mass. For her, The Shrine of Our Lady Walsingham became a second home and she was accepted as the youngest Associate of the Priory. As her faith grew, Aaron, as can be the way for some teenagers, turned away from the church and found other distractions.
“My vocation to ministry has been a long journey starting in 1995 when I recognised God prompting me. This led me to explore for a year ministry as a Lay Pastoral Assistant and Youth Leader in Shieldfield Newcastle. However, after a couple of years, I returned to London none the wiser and explored evangelism with the Church Army as well as ordained ministry, but nothing seemed right. With the prayer and support of Bishop Norman Banks, who had been my parish priest in Whitley Bay before I moved to London in 1993, I was encouraged to visit the Franciscan Friary at Hillfield in Dorset. Following this exploration weekend, I was invited back as a Postulant to test my vocation before taking vows as a Novice in 1999. For three years I was immersed in prayer and learnt a rhythm of prayer that still sustains me today. After three years of living in the community with the Society of St Francis, I left with their blessing in 2002.
“Although I left the Franciscan life behind, the discipline of a vowed life never left me and prayer continued to sustain me. Throughout my journey, God has guided and blessed me as I try to live an incarnate life with him and those around me. Meeting Emma in 2003 was part of God’s plan as he called me into married life. Emma, who has taught at the Village Primary in Thornaby for over 15 years, has been a great source of encouragement and support which has allowed me to explore vocation and study with Lindisfarne.”
Deborah Hodge was born in Cambridge and has lived in many different parts of England – her favourite is definitely the North East. She said: “I have been living in Oakenshaw near Willington since 2003. I spent most of my working life as a Crown Prosecutor in the Magistrates Courts –perhaps as a result I am not fond of arguments. I have a husband of 46 years, two daughters and three grandchildren, who sadly (for me) live in the south of France. We have two Shetland ponies, three pet sheep, a cat, a chinchilla and a hive of bees.
“I am a cradle Anglican, my father and grandfather were both Readers, and although I drifted away during my teens and early twenties I never left the Church of England. It has always been a part of my life and after having children it became more important to me to ensure that they grew up with the same grounding. As we all went to church I gradually took on more roles such as teaching in Sunday School, reading, intercessions and leading children’s talks.
“Shortly after we moved up to County Durham I went on a ‘Faith and Life’ course with the Diocese – and that was the start of a journey which has led me to ordination. I was an Authorised Pastoral Assistant at St Brandon’s Brancepeth for 11 years, which I loved, but I began to feel a stirring to something more, focussed around the Sacraments. I found that I really wanted to be able to bless, absolve and administer the Eucharist – and someone said to me ‘you know what you really want is to be a priest’. That was the lightbulb moment!”
Dawn Hudson was born in Northumberland, with a younger sibling: Christopher and Golden Retriever Tim. She said: “Family holidays were at the many Butlins camps around the UK, and later at Heysham where we enjoyed walks along the beach; I also enjoyed skiing as a teenager in Italy.
“I have worked in Sales, and later ran my own business in Beauty Therapy, and I also enjoyed being a member of a craft fair community where I was able to sell organic skin cream which I made myself, and sculptures and Christian art – Art with art history was my favourite subject at school!
“I became a Christian while I lived in America in my 30’s, and after returning to the UK and doing an Alpha course I found I really enjoyed speaking to people about Jesus, eventually this led me into the Church Army as a commissioned Sister and as a Pioneer Evangelist; after several years with them, my second contract came to an end and I moved back up North and began self-employment – part of my work was as a Mission consultant and during this time God began to speak through the Bible and through people in ways that made me begin to think that perhaps God was calling me to be a Priest.
“I had enjoyed in the past leading people in worship and in prayer, sharing faith with others, and also hearing how God was at work in their lives. I especially found fulfilling beginning new ways of being church, being involved in pastoral care, sharing faith on the streets and in new environments in mission. Jesus came to earth so everyone can be given the opportunity to live life to the full – it is exciting to be in partnership with God and leading others in sharing this, and in helping to equip people to discover the good news about Jesus as Saviour. Journeying together as a faith community, resourcing each other, and learning together is rewarding as together we move forward in the unfolding of God’s loving redemptive plan.”
Alexander Jones grew up in Aberdeenshire then moved to St Andrew’s for University. At University he studied International Relations and Modern History. He said: “At St Andrew’s, my faith grew significantly while I was deeply involved in my church family and the Christian Union. As University went on I sensed God challenging me about how I was going to spend the rest of my life. My plan had been to look for opportunities in journalism, but instead, God led me to a role in a church staff team all the way down south in Somerset!
“While at St Andrew’s I met Sarah, and we were married in 2017. Sarah and I have a vision for ministry together. We served together on staff at St Paul’s Weston-super-Mare, where I was Operations Director, and look forward to serving in Gateshead.
“When I started working at St Paul’s I thought God was calling me to a specific role for a season of life. Initially, I thought it would be back to my master plan after this. No guessing how that worked out! In this time, I sensed God calling me to ministry beyond this season and asked what this looked like. The vocations journey has taken me to the North East, initially to train at Cranmer Hall, and now to serve at St George’s Gateshead.
Sarah Millican Jones said: “I am from Edinburgh, Scotland (despite my lack of a Scottish accent). After taking a gap year as a childminder and doing the Vision Course with 24-7 Prayer in Guildford, I studied Theology and Biblical Studies at St Andrew’s. During this time I met Alexander, my husband, through our involvement in Church, CU and running Alpha together. We were married in St Andrews in 2017.
“Following University I took a job at St Paul’s Weston-Super-Mare as the Ministries Director overseeing the day to day running of the ministry side of the Church. St Paul’s was such an amazing church to be a part of as we saw incredible glimpses of God at working bringing restoration and new life to people from diverse backgrounds including ex-offenders, people in recovery from addiction and challenging circumstances. During this time I explored ordination and came to Durham to train at Cranmer Hall. I completed a Masters during my first two years of Ordination training and I am 9 months into a professional doctorate looking at the Book of Revelation & Eschatological Hope.
“I love people and seeing people flourish and come alive. I met Jesus and it changed my life and ever since I’ve wanted to see people come to know him. I was going to pursue a career in Human Resources but over time I had a very clear sense of God calling me to the church and then into ordained ministry. So I decided to explore that call because following Jesus is the best thing I could do and so here we are!”
Kath Long was born and brought up in East Anglia, where the majority of her family still live. Since leaving home, she has lived all over the country, including Wales, Kent and London before finally moving to the Northeast 13 years ago. She said: “Since moving to County Durham I have worked as a librarian, both in the county libraries and for Durham University Library, working at Palace Green Library (including being part of the team for the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham exhibition) and later Ushaw College Library when the University Library staff support the college.
“I am what is known as a cradle Anglican and I have always had a faith in Christ. When I was 18 I started to feel a call to ordained ministry, which has never left me. Sometimes the feeling was stronger, sometimes it was more in the background, but there was always a clear sense of being called. A few years ago, after some significant bereavements, I started to re-examine what I really wanted to do with my life. When exploring this, I again felt drawn to ordained ministry, but unlike before when the notion would fade in and out of focus, this time the sense of calling was persistent and continually drew me in. It was at this time I bumped into a good, long-standing friend who is a clergyman. We talked about how I was feeling, and he said, very wisely, that the only way that I would really know if I was called is if I test it out, that we all have a vocation to test our vocations. And so I pushed the door, and rather wonderfully, the door opened and I was selected for training.
“One of the greatest challenges that I have overcome is that of my confidence in myself and my own ability. During this time of exploration of vocation and establishing what God is calling me to do and as the process progressed, I grew in confidence and self-belief, which I had very little of before. I felt more confidence in my academic ability, but also writing spiritual reflections and simply confidence in my thoughts and understandings, and it has been a real test in faith, in trusting God wholeheartedly in what would happen next. I feel that this process has been a wonderful blessing from God and I am looking forward to seeing where God takes me and what challenges he offers me in this next stage in life.”
David Lucas is Canadian, and who grew up hiking and camping and exploring the outdoors with family and friends. In school, he loved playing Rugby and wrestling on school teams, as well as Rock Climbing competitively. After High School, he spent a few brief years in the Canadian Military as an infantryman.
He said: “I loved the military, the discipline and challenge, and thought I could happily spend years serving. About that time, I came to faith in Jesus while on tour in Bosnia. I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home, but in retrospect I can see that God had always been present, directing me, disciplining me, and meeting me in various ways. All of this came to head while on tour amidst the aftermath of incredible evil and brokenness. In that place, God was with me so powerfully, my time in Bosnia was given very much to coming to know Him and His love for me. Before the tour was over, I realised that I was no longer interested in continuing with the military, but wanted to know more about Jesus.
“So when contracts were completed, I left the military to go to Bible School in Costa Rica. This was an incredibly formative time in my life where I lived in a Christian community, read the Bible for the first time, learned to pray, and took my first steps in Christian mission and service. Days were given to studying scripture and prayer, and it was during this time that I really came to love Jesus. Upon my return to Canada, I continued serving in various church ministries, and began taking classes from local universities to explore the history and teachings of the faith in more depth. I also began work as a painter-decorator, started my own business, and got married to Hanna, the love of my life; we now have 4 beautiful children together. Five years ago, we all moved to Durham for Hanna to begin a Phd in Theology.
“Before becoming a Christian, I used to be quite antagonistic towards the faith. I thought that Christianity was ridiculous, and I remember a conversation where I stated that the worst thing anyone could ever do with their life was to become a priest. When I became a Christian, this of course changed, but I always remembered it. For many years I volunteered for and led several ministries in the Church. What makes me most excited is honouring and being part of God’s good work in peoples’ lives. I love telling people about Jesus and encouraging them in their faith. I want nothing more than for people to know God’s love for themselves, and the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection. There came a point several years back when several people asked me at various times if I had ever considered ordained ministry. I hadn’t until then, but as I considered it, and explored the possibility I found God’s leading hand guiding me. When we moved to England, I found myself ministering in various ways here in the community and became astonished with what I perceived to be an openness to talk about Jesus, and a desire to know more. I was encouraged to enter the discernment process for ordination here, which I eventually did. I had always imagined serving in Canada and was surprised by the possibility of serving in the UK. Again, I found God’s leading hand guiding me in this. I discerned over a period of one year that God was calling me to serve here in the UK. I had come to love the people in my community, and was excited by the thought of ministry here. But most importantly, I found God in the midst; I sensed his desire for me to follow Him here, to seek His face here, to serve Him here.”
Stephen Martin was Born and raised in Sherburn Village. He is married to Mandy, and they have three girls Gracie, Niamh, and Erin, one dog and 15 hens.
He said: “I Worked as Pub Manager, Care assistant and for the last 14 years as a funeral director.
“Having joined the youth group at St Mary the Virgin, Sherburn in 1992 and taken part in many diocesan youth events my faith was nurtured by the church and at 14 I felt a call to ministry whatever that may be.
“Being married, life took a different turn until 2006 when I returned to church at St Mary Magdalene, Belmont. Once again, my faith was encouraged and nourished by the church community, and I explored Reader Ministry being licensed as Reader in 2017. Embracing my ministry as Reader I still felt a strong call to a more sacramental ministry which I spent some time discerning. With God’s grace and amazing family support I’m here today.
“My biggest challenge has always been the academics but good support from Lindisfarne has enabled me to give it my best.
Tim May said: grew up in Trowbridge which not to far away from the historic city of Bath! I did my undergraduate studies and Cliff College in Derbyshire, following that on with a Master of Letters degree at St Andrews. I worked as the lead Youth Pastor for a Church in Bath before coming to Cranmer.
“I’m married to Beth who trained at Norland College to become a Nanny. I met Beth in Church when we both lived in Bath, we got married in the summer of 2019 after my first year at Cranmer.
“ At the age of 13 I felt God tell me that this was his plan for my life. Since that point I have tried to discern God’s voice in the decisions that I have had to make regarding studies or employment. I went to Cliff College to give myself time to study theology and also explore the different types of ministry that God may be calling me to. When I returned from those studies I felt there were still questions I needed answers to, which brought me to study for a Masters degree at St Andrew’s. When I worked for the Church in Bath I was put in touch with the Bishop’s advisor for youth. He was a part of the young vocations team for the diocese and encouraged me to pursue ordination earlier than I expected to do. I had it in my mind you had to be 35 and have lots of life experience, but he explained even at 22 the Church would be interested in what I had to offer.
“I went for it, prayed the hardest I ever had and God led me through and brought me to Cranmer Hall.”
Heather Ross was born and spent her whole life in Weardale, attended the local schools and often seeing her old school friends when shopping locally. She said: “I visited church with my grandparents as a child; one side Anglican one side Methodist. I have a son, daughter and three grandchildren. I studied with the Open University, gaining a BSc(Hons) IT and Computing in 2006 enabling me to teach computer studies in outreach centres in Weardale and Teesdale.
“I returned to weekly worship after the death of my husband and felt the welcome, warmth and comfort of God in my life. I became increasingly involved in church life and was confirmed in 2009. After being licensed as a Reader in 2018 I felt increasingly called to ordination. After discussing this with our local Reader and several priests in the benefice they encouraged me to continue and I began training in September 2020. The modules have all been interesting and I have enjoyed building up my theological knowledge and confidence during this time.”
Susan Sweeting said: “I am single, no children, 2 sisters, 2 brothers-in-law, 3 nieces, 4 nephews and an assortment of great-nieces and nephews including twin baby boys. I have a supportive family and supportive friends. I have recently retired from the NHS where I worked for 31 years in a GP surgery as a manager. Retirement is wonderful and has allowed me to fully embrace my last year of training. I am excited about the next 31 years of my life in a new ministry.
“I have a robust faith and a deep love of God and a brilliant priest in my home church who opened up for me a whole new world of ministry. And then wanting to share this world with others started my ministry within the church.”
Heather Wallace was born in Sunderland, and went to Hylton Redhouse Comprehensive School leaving in 1978. After leaving school she worked in the civil service. Lived 3 years in Israel on a kibbutz. Returned and trained as a State Registered Nurse then did Midwifery training. Retired from midwifery after 27 years in the NHS. She added: “I have also worked in retail for a short period and as a nursery nurse. I live with my mother following the death of my father and have 2 sisters and 4 nieces and 3 nephews. I have always lived in a house with pets, now I have 3 cats. I love reading historical novels, baking, and knitting and cross-stitch.
“My biggest challenges have been the death of my father and being diagnosed with breast cancer. Having not had any significant illness prior to this it was difficult to accept. I was suddenly a vulnerable patient instead of the person giving care. However, these challenges have helped me to understand others in their times of adversity and suffering. The challenges of my work in the NHS have also helped me to be closer to God and his people and be with them and walk with them in life.”