Biography of the next Bishop of Thetford
Much of my time at school was spent playing rugby and cricket, and these sports have remained strong interests for me, although now as a spectator rather than a participant. It was during my teenage years that I joined a church youth group and, largely through the kindness and example of the group leaders, found my way to a deeper faith and the beginnings of a sense of vocation.
After leaving school I worked for a couple of years for Shell before going to college in Bristol to study theology. It was here that I met Pippa and we were married in 1982. I had by then moved to be a student at Sheffield University where I completed a degree and PhD in Biblical Studies. We loved our time in Sheffield and South Yorkshire and our first daughter, Sarah, was born there in 1986.
Having completed my PhD an opportunity came up for us to go to France for a year and a half where I worked in Strasbourg with the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society. Part of my work was helping to plan a major conference of European Churches to mark the 40th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, working closely with local Roman Catholic and Lutheran church leaders. Again, we loved our time in Alsace, in France and our second daughter, Tasha, was born there in 1988.
On returning to England we went to live in Lincoln where I completed my training for ordination, and then I was ordained deacon in St. Paul’s Cathedral to serve my title at Christ Church, Southgate. It is good that my consecration as a Bishop will take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral where my ministry began.
After a happy curacy in North London, we moved up to the parish of St. Paul’s Walden with Preston in rural Hertfordshire. Here I was half-time Vicar looking after two churches and also Continuing Ministerial Education Officer for the diocese of St. Albans. St. Paul’s Walden is the church where the late Queen Mother was baptised and the parish in which she grew up, and one of the highpoints of the year for the community was her annual visit to stay at her childhood home and worship at the church where she was christened.
My work as CME officer focused mainly on supporting curates and newly licensed Readers in the early stages of their ministry, and working with their vicars to support them in their training role.
I then moved in 1999 to become Rector of Welwyn and Ayot St. Peter, just five miles up the road, and then in 2005 became Team Rector of the newly formed Welwyn Team Ministry of five churches. During my time here the congregation of St. Mary’s Welwyn, with support from the wider community, raised the money to build a series of new meeting rooms and modern facilities on to the north side of the church. As part of the project, Ground Source Heat Pumps were installed, which heat the new building and the church with energy drawn from the ground beneath the churchyard. We believe St. Mary’s was the first church in the UK to install such a system and it achieved an 80% cut in its carbon footprint.
During my time in Welwyn I have also chaired the Diocesan Board for Christian Development, which deals with training and ministry, youth and children’s work, stewardship and vocations, among other things.
Our daughter Sarah now works as a trainee fashion buyer, and Tasha is planning to study for a degree in fine art. Pippa was herself ordained priest in 1994, but has for the last fifteen years worked as a counsellor at Eden Hall Marie Curie centre, a hospice, in North London. Pippa plans to take some time out to help us settle into our new home, and then hopes to continue her work as a counsellor and family therapist.
We are greatly looking forward to coming to live and work in the Diocese of Norwich and getting to know better this beautiful part of the country. I have enjoyed the privilege of 18 years spent as a parish priest, loving the variety among the people I have met and the work I have done, and I look forward to building on this in the demands of my new ministry as a bishop. Of course it is difficult to sum up in a sentence the mission and ministry of the church, but we work to see signs of God’s Kingdom breaking into our lives and the life of the communities in which we live and work: that vision has been at the heart of my ministry as a priest and will continue to be the heart of my ministry as a bishop.