Case Study: Daniel Ackerley

Priest and Pastor Twenty Four Seven

My name is Daniel… I’m a self supporting priest and work full time as a funeral director in Sunderland and South Tyneside. I’m attached to the parishes of St Peter Stockton and St John Elton…and in my spare time, I do a little bit of work at the local hospital as a bank chaplain. 


From a young age, I had a sense of call to ordained ministry and it was something that never went away…it continued to grow and deepen. I’m not an academic person and left college with no A Levels. I began working as a funeral director which is a vocation in itself and a job I love very much. 


When I went to BAP 6 years ago at the age of 25, it was assumed that I would be offering for stipendiary ministry…but somehow that didn’t feel right …I sensed strongly that I also had a vocation too as a funeral director, that somehow I was being called to both things. There were those …inside the church…who thought I was trying to take the easy option …that I wasn’t willing to give up my life. 


6 years on, I don’t think I have taken the easy option out and in many respects it would be simpler to have one vocation…but God had other plans…and I feel very fulfilled and as though I am living life and ministry in all its fullness. That does not mean that there are fireworks and mountain top experiences every day. Most days are just ordinary and come and go like the rest but there are special moments…having a deeply profound conversation with a bereaved family who describe themselves as non-religious and would never come into contact with a priest or the church on the morning and late in the evening, sitting at the bedside and holding the hand of someone in their final moments and whispering prayers and sentences of hope and comfort into their ear as they slip into God’s nearer presence. Being a self supporting priest with a full time job is hard work, exhausting, beautiful and deeply profound. Going to work in a shirt and tie allows me to straddle both sacred in the church and sacred in the world and somehow to commend them and draw them closer to each other. 


And when stipendiary clergy friends sometimes joke “must be alright for you…having an ordinary job and just doing ministry when you like”, I smile to myself and think that I am very privileged to have been called to two special vocations. Both full time…full time funeral director …full time priest…because for me, I can not simply switch off and on being a priest. I am a priest 24 hours per day, whether I am wearing a clerical collar and taking a service on a Sunday or whether I am wearing a top hat and walking infront of the hearse. 


If you are considering self supporting ministry, it is a treasure but not at all easy. In training there will be times when you will wonder if you will manage, there will be times when you think that you’re simply living the impossible dream…but you will get there. 


For me, the training was the hardest thing but with support and encouragement, I managed. 


I remember standing in the cloister a few moments before my ordination as a deacon thinking 'How on earth did I manage that?'  …and here I am. 


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