‘The Church of England was like coming back home’

by
07 July 2017

Nine newly-ordained deacons recount their journeys towards priesthood

Nikolas Gower

Nikolas Gower

Nikolas Gower was ordained deacon in Winchester Ca­­­the­dral on 2 July. He will serve his title at Romsey Abbey.

Nikolas Gower has felt called to God all his life. He was born in South Africa and bap­­tised in the Church of the Province. His mother first came to faith while preparing for his baptism, and joined an Anglican church in Norwich on their re­­turn to England, a few years later.

Mr Gower attended Notre Dame High School, before en­­­rolling at Kingdom Faith Bible College, in Horsham, aged 18, where he studied for three years. “It was a good experience,” he said, “but I never really felt that it was where God was calling me to be. The Church of England was like coming back home.”

He met the Vicar of All Saints’, Por­ingland, the Revd Robert Parsonage, dur­ing his studies, and discussed his sense of a call to ministry, although he did not realise at the time that Mr Parsonage was or­­dained. “I later found out that he was the vicar of the church my mother had just moved to. It was one of those unique God-orchestrated moments — the com­ing together of many things in my heart: a desire to help and support people, and to preach the gospel.”

 

Aaron JackmanAaron Jackman was ordained deacon at Manchester Cathedral on 2 July. He will serve his title in the benefice of Saddleworth.

Aaron Jackman, aged 34, has had a connection with faith from his earliest days, when, as the son of a West Indian Pentecostal elder, he was a regular at his parents’ Assemblies of God church, in Manchester. As he grew up, married, and became a family man, however, his direction of travel moved gradually towards an Anglo-Catholic style of worship, with occasional thoughts of turning the leadership positions he had enjoyed in a variety of congregations into a serious proposition.

Three years ago, he went up to Westcott House, Cambridge, where, as one of the few students from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, he at first struggled to fit in. “But, eventually, I found I had the gift of diversity, and I loved it.”. He plans to take that to his new duties at the group of churches that form the mostly rural benefice of Saddleworth, on the edge of Oldham, Lancs. “Being from the urban sprawl of Old Trafford, I’m looking forward to the adventure of celebrating God’s presence in a vibrant rural community that has a real sense of place.”

He has already espoused the rural life, and has found a home for his wife, Gemma, and their children — Hope, aged seven, and Abraham, six — with enough space to keep chickens and sheep as part of their desire to connect with a simple life. And he laughs as he admits: “Yes, I have already heard all the jokes about looking after my flock.”

 

Martha WeatherillMartha Weatherill was ordained deacon at Chichester Cathedral on 1 July. She will serve her title at St Paul’s, Chichester, and St Peter’s, Westhampnett, West Sussex.

Martha Weatherill, aged 39, was born in Nigeria, the daughter of a clergyman, but, despite a strong faith, she at first pursued a different career, taking a degree in computing followed by postgraduate studies in Applied Logic, and then teaching maths up to A level. But, about five years ago, while helping to arrange a service in a community centre, she was told by one of the worshippers that she could do more.

“It was unexpected,” she said, “but I sensed that loving and serving God and his people is what I was born to do.” She sees no conflict between her faith and her academic background: “God is in everything, even logic. I am very grateful to God and to all those who have supported me in this amazing journey.” She studied for ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and is excited — and a little daunted — about joining the community in West Sussex.

She and her husband, Jonathan, have a daughter, Amy, aged seven, and she lists her personal pleasures as meeting people, dining out, and travelling — and watching classic British sitcoms such as Only Fools and Horses and Last of the Summer Wine.

 

John RussellJohn Russell was ordained deacon at St Paul’s Cathedral on 1 July. He will serve his title at St Luke’s and Christ Church, Chelsea.

John Russell, aged 45, described himself as the “oldest student, but the youngest Christian” on his course at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. Not only has his journey from vague interest to ordination taken just five years, but he has travelled from dabbling with Quakerism to high Anglicanism.

Along the way he forsook a successful career as a legal aid lawyer and a senior university lectureship. “I had just got to the point where I thought I had made it; I was ready to reap the rewards for the next 20 years, but it nagged at me that there was something more that I could be doing.”

He started regular praying, and, when a friend gave him a copy of the Divine Office, it triggered something. “In the space of about two weeks, I had a pretty dramatic conversion. I really felt like God had moved from being up there somehow in the heavens to just being in and around me. I got confirmed, and, within a couple of months, I thought: ‘I think I am meant to become a priest.’”

Initially, he was a nervous about a curacy in one of the wealthiest parts of London. “I don’t look like one’s idea of a priest: I am heavily tattooed for a start; I wore the highest-collared shirt I have to hide them at the first service I attended, but, when the poshest Chelsea voice behind me said she was fascinated to know what they all meant, the ice was broken.”

 

Lucy Arnold Dan BrowneDan Browne is due to be ordained deacon at Gloucester Cathedral on 16 July. He will serve his title in St Peter’s, Clifford’s Mesne, in Newent and Gorsley.

It was in the aftermath of 9/11 that Dan Browne was first called to ordination. He prayed that God would send aid workers to Afghanistan to rebuild the community after the terrorist attack; little did he know that God had planned to send him. “I suddenly realised I could go, and it became clear that that was what God was calling me to do.”

He was accepted by the disaster relief agency Medair, and spent a year in Kabul, rebuilding schools and helping with refuse collection, before moving to the north of the country to build hospitals and clinics. On his return to the UK, in 2010, he studied Kingdom theology at Westminster Theological Centre, before helping to plant Mariners Gloucester, where he became associate minister for two years. “God has taken me on a journey to become more like Jesus,” he said. “My strongest desire and calling is to connect other people to Jesus so that they may have the same joy and hope that I have in being with him.”

Mr Browne was born in Hampshire, but has lived in Hong Kong, Germany, and Northern Ireland. He studied public administration at De Montfort University before working in the City of London as a benefits administrator, then assistant company secretary, for several years, during which time he became a Christian, and attended Holy Trinity, Brompton. In 1995, he spent three years as a missionary in Africa, before returning to be associate minister at Trinity Cheltenham. He started ordination training at Trinity College, Bristol, in 2015.

 

 Yunghee KohYunghee Koh was or­­dained deacon at South­wark Cathe­dral on 1 July. She will serve her title in the Wimbledon Team Min­istry.

Yunghee Koh was born and brought up in a Bud­dhist family in Jeju, South Korea, where she studied economics at Jeju University. In 1991, she moved to Japan to be closer to her father and to study for a diploma in computer graphics. There, she met her husband, Tae Seok Jung, an evangelist (now a Reader at Southwark), and converted to Christianity.

The couple moved to London in 1995, and joined St James’s, New Malden. Ms Koh studied for an MA in children’s lit­­erature, and a postgraduate diploma in education from Roehampton University (now Surrey University), before working as a negotiator, then accounts clerk, until 2015. They have two daughters, aged 22 
and 15. She first felt the call to preach on Palm Sunday, 2004, when she was struck by a passage of scripture. “Jesus says that if you stop shouting, the stones will cry out [Luke 19:35-42].

”Those words made me think that if God can make the stones cry out to glorify him, then what was I doing? I could not believe it. I thought I was dream­­ing, be­­­cause I was working, as well as a mother. My English was not great; so I was thinking ‘I must be crazy.’”

It resurfaced in 2008, when her mother died. “I thought a lot about her relation­ship with my children. I was sad because they did not know very much about each other. I felt I needed to do something to have a better relationship with God; that I was not doing enough.”

Ms Koh trained to become a Reader at Southwark Cathedral in 2012, but felt that her calling to ministry was not yet satis­fied. She met the Diocesan Director of Ordinands at Southwark to discuss or­­dination, before beginning her training at St Augustine’s College of Theology.

 

 James TreasureJames Treasure was ordained deacon in Wor­cester Ca­­thedral on 25 June. He will serve his title as part of the Kid­der­minster West Team Ministry.

As the leader of a thriving con­­gregation in the Free Church, and having increased another from three to 150, it might have seemed unlikely that James Trea­sure would leave to return to the Anglicanism of his teenage years. But a combination of challenging personal situations, a sense of the Holy Spirit at work, and “just falling in love with Anglicanism” led to what he describes as a “home­­­coming”. The first of these included his wife’s being diagnosed with cancer, and several deaths in the church, and a sense that the Charismatic Evangelical Church “did not always have a theology of suffering”.

He became a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and it was through meet­ing Anglican members, and the Bishop of Dudley, that he was taken further forwards on his path to ordination, to which he felt a calling. The Church of Eng­land is “uniquely placed in our cul­ture to make an impact for Christ”, he says.

He also loves the breadth of the Church, and has consciously chosen to take up a post in an Anglo-Catholic en­­vir­on­ment. “There is a lot of cross­over. The Anglo-Catholic tradi­tion and Evan­­gel­ical are very similar, but don’t always know it. Both expect to meet God in the service: one in the word, and one in the table.” He is looking forward to learning more about the tradition.

 

Juliet Fraser Juliet Fraser was ordained priest at St Asaph Cathedral on 24 June. She will serve her title as a Curate in Rhyl, part of the Aber-Morfa Mission Area.

Working as a welfare-rights officer in Wales, Juliet Fraser was conscious that she could not share her faith with those she was helping. “I became so aware that I wanted to talk to people about Jesus, especially people in dire circumstances,” she says. It was one of the experiences that led her to respond to a call that she had tried to put to the back of her mind. “You are compelled to respond,” she says, paying tribute to the many people who inspired her.

Now working in Rhyl, she is free to offer spiritual as well as practical support, including the establishment of a bereavement support group. She was ordained priest in an all-women line-up at the cathedral.

She is confident that the Church is “making progress” in community outreach, and conscious of increasing awareness among congregations that “we need to get out more into the community”.

 

 

Samantha Martell and sausagesSamantha Martell was ordained deacon at Portsmouth Cathedral on 1 July. She will serve her title in the Meon Bridge benefice, Hampshire.

 A sudden trauma while running her own butcher’s business in Portsmouth made Samantha Martell, aged 46, take a fresh look at her journey through life. While moving a sausage-making machine, she suffered pressure fractures to her neck and the base of her spine. As she recovered in hospital, her landlord changed the locks on her shop and sold her equipment.

Turning instead to concentrate on her twins, Killian and Carlisle, now 15, and her husband, Jonny, she got involved with her children’s village school, eventually chairing the governors. She also became a churchwarden. One day, her vicar asked: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Without thinking, she replied: “I want to be a vicar.”

She says: “The words just came out of my mouth — it wasn’t quite what I was thinking at the time. But I realised that that was what I wanted to do, and what God was calling me to.” She trained at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, switching after a year to the Portsmouth Pathway course, at St Luke’s, Southsea. “It’s humbling to feel part of something bigger than you can ever imagine, and sometimes quite scary. But it’s where God wants me to be.”

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