MICHAEL ROBINSON grew up in Yorkshire, in a family of "atheist
Anglicans". When he was ten, the family moved house and he started
going to church: "I just knew that it was where I wanted to
This early encounter with faith was "very much rooted in parish
ministry, with a priest who served his people, and a really rich
liturgical life". His faith was nurtured by "old-style
Anglo-Catholic priests who instilled some spiritual
For Michael, there was "no sharp distinction between churchgoing
and priesthood: I had the ordination side of things in my mind from
the beginning, but I thought, if I'm really called, I will come
back to it."
He read History at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and then worked
for the Ministry of Justice for a year, and as speechwriter and
chief of staff for a Conservative MP in Westminster.
When, after three years in Parliament, he decided to explore
ordination, his boss was "very supportive". Michael had been
worshipping at St Mary's, Putney, and met his future wife, Kate, in
a Theology-in-the-Pub group; she is also a civil servant, and it
emerged that they worked next door to each other.
Kate's father was a priest. When Michael went to talk to the
Director of Ordinands, the first thing Kate did was to telephone
her mother. After 25 years growing up in a vicarage, she laid down
some ground rules.
"She said: 'I will support you every step of the way, but these
are my terms: we need to take the same day off in the week, so that
we can see each other; and, when it comes to parish life, we need
to instal a separate phone line."
Within 12 days of getting married, they had moved to Cambridge
and Michael had started his training at Westcott House. Residential
training was a very deliberate choice: "It offered an opportunity
to really step away from the life that I had before, and prepare
for the new identity of priesthood. It's also good practice for a
parish, having to live alongside, and get on with, people you may
disagree with; and all that it means to be a 'conscious
Why Westcott? "I hope I've got at least 40 years as a parish
priest ahead of me; I wanted to train somewhere that would broaden
me, rather than just confirming the things I already thought."
Embarking on ordination training marked "a really significant
shift in funding. One of the fringe benefits of my old job was that
I didn't have to worry about whether I could afford a night out."
Michael remembers his mother saying: "Anybody who tells you that
money doesn't buy you happiness is a liar."
He is now completely dependent on Kate, who commutes back to her
work in London.
The part played by the TAP Fund was explained to them on
arrival: "It was nice to know that there was this other source of
funding that had come from the Church - a sense that it wasn't only
practical, but a gesture to say: 'We recognise what you are taking
on and we want to support you.'"
Back in Cambridge, "the city itself is the same, but the city I
knew, and the people I knew, have gone, so that I am rediscovering
it in a different way."
Last year, Michael's Doctrine supervisor was the new(ish) Master
of his old college, Rowan Williams. "He's read a thing or two -
it's a real privilege to be taught by him."
How to give
WE STILL take cheques, postal orders, cash, and charity cheques.
But many of our readers find that the simplest way to give is by
means of the online giving page: http://www.hymnsam.co.uk/train-a-priest.aspx.
This is a secure page, and so your donation can be given safely, in
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Please send other donations to our Norwich office: TAP Fund,
Church Times, 13a Hellesdon Park Road, Norwich NR6 5DR.
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making a simple declaration of eligibility. You can do this on our
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Spread the word
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leaflet can be downloaded here (PDF). If you are planning a
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