Phil Maries was ordained priest on 25 June in All Saints’, in Normanton, a former mining village in the diocese of Leeds.
His journey to faith lbegan out on the road where he had worked as a scaffolder and lorry driver for 32 years. His turning point was a CB broadcast by a vicar which he heard on the way to Glasgow.
“I caught about 90 seconds of what he was saying. He was talking about Psalm 116 and Psalm 113, and I really listened to what those two psalms were saying. I began searching for a local church, but I didn’t really find anything suitable; but, looking back, God was in all of this. I got together with my future wife, Belinda, who worked in my company, after she invited me to teach map-reading to Guides. She was a Guide captain, and we were invited to church by the vicar where the Guides were being presented with their badges. We ended up attending this church together.”
He had been brought up in a Christian family, but had found church “totally boring”, and had chosen to play rugby instead. He left school with no qualifications. “I was written off,” he said. “I ended up as a scaffolder, earning a lot of money, but playing hard and drinking hard.”
It took a pub brawl to make him realise that his life was going nowhere after he discovered later that someone had been stabbed. “It was the realisation that I could have been the one who was stabbed, or I could have been the one using the knife, that made me review my life and start to realise what God was trying to say to me,” he said.
Later, he worked as an evangelist team leader with an organisation, Through Faith Missions, travelling across the country. Then, despite being dyslexic, he completed a Reader training programme and has now completed a full degree course.
“The vicar who spoke on the CB radio broadcast would not have known if he had reached anybody, but that was his calling, and it was a life-changing moment for me,” he said. “Looking back, my life could have gone two ways: the way that it has done, or I could have ended up in prison or an alcoholic and in a very low place. The faithfulness of that vicar has had an enormous impact on my life, and I want to pay that back and do the same for somebody else.”