Towards ordination

Towards the end of my A Levels I started to struggle at church. A new vicar had arrived and it wasn’t the same. There were less altar servers, and less ceremonial. I pulled back, often sitting in the congregation until asked whether I could help because they were short of servers.

The local Anglo-Catholic churches started having occasional “Rock Masses”, and through this I started getting to know young Christians at St Giles’ and St Mark’s Churches. St Giles’ had a young curate, who ran a youth group, and I was invited to attend.

Through this youth group and getting to know Fr Victor I started considering whether I might be called to ordained ministry. It was something interesting, and scary, and something I wasn’t really to sure about. But I started to explore my faith, and started praying the Daily Offices of the Church. As a group we went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, as well as going to the Youth Pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham – which started me exploring what it was to be both catholic and charismatic (although I didn’t know it then), and events such as Sheep Dip in Birmingham as well.

Stuart in Lourdes

After my gap year I started my degree at the University of Reading, joining both the Catholic Society and the Methodist Society since there was no Anglican Society. I drifted away from the Church of England a little, regularly attending a free church on a Sunday morning, but getting along to midweek Mass at All Saints’ when able.

By the end of my degree I was more or less back at All Saints’, although worshipping at St Mark’s and St Giles’ on occasions. But I was determined to run away from the idea of being ordained, so embarked upon a career as an ICT Consultant, providing computer support and developing solutions across a range of schools, from single class infant schools to 2000+ pupil secondary schools, with everything in-between. I had come up with all kinds of reasons about why I couldn’t be ordained, and was sticking to it!

That is, until one day I was persuaded to apply for a job at another school. It would have been a good opportunity. But, when filling in the form, it was quite clear that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. Something had changed. God had got the message through at last!

As part of the discernment I spent some time in discussion with the then Abbot of Elmore Abbey, Dom Basil Matthews. As well as helping me on my way towards ordination it began an interest in the Benedictine tradition, which ultimately led me to becoming an Oblate of Alton Abbey in Hampshire some years later.

Natalie and I married between the Selection Conference (a sort of church “I’m a Celebrity” three days of being observed) and starting at Cuddesdon. This made writing a wedding gift list somewhat difficult where we didn’t know where we would be living, let alone whether I would still be an ICT consultant or would have been transformed into a student!

After ordination I occasionally had the privilege of returning to All Saints’ to celebrate Mass in the place where my vocation was initially nurtured.