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Petertide Ordinations: ‘My teenage self would be completely surprised’

05 July 2019

Madeleine Davies and Adam Becket report on some of the incredible stories behind the call to ministry. Click here to read the full list of ordinands and photos from each diocese


Nathan Leigh

Nathan Leigh

‘They got me into healthy rhythms of life’

Nathan Leigh was ordained deacon in Winchester Cathedral on Sunday. He will serve his title at St Mary’s, Southampton. 

Nathan Leigh has taken a circuitous route to the priesthood, having played in a band, We Are Twin, in Los Angeles, before finding his vocation.

While he was in LA, Mr Leigh found that the music industry was not a healthy community for him: “The music industry, the way that it runs, is essentially offering you the potential of fame and money, whilst keeping that at arm’s reach. . . You give 24/7 to the industry, and they will take everything from you.”

The band, which he describes as “indie-pop, very radio-friendly” was managed by Randy Jackson, one of the judges on American Idol.

The welcome he did find in LA was through his church, Vintage, in Santa Monica. “They were the antithetical community compared to the music industry, because what they did to me was build into me. They showed me love, and they cared for me, and they got me into healthy rhythms of life.”

It was during his time at Vintage that Mr Leigh found his calling, before he returned to the UK, where he studied at Moorlands Bible College, and then St Mellitus College.

He served a pastoral placement at Love Church, Bournemouth, which is where his vocation became stronger.

He said: “I have a young daughter, a baby on the way, and my wife, who are all excited. My wife is from Southampton; so it feels like a homecoming for her. It’s also the exact right time to move on from Love Church.

“I’m ready for the new challenge; the opportunities at St Mary’s will be the right step.”

DIOCESE OF SOUTHWELL & NOTTINGHAMDeborah Moyo‘The Church hasn’t known what to do with young women’

Deborah Moyo was ordained priest in Southwell Cathedral on Saturday. She continues to serve her title at Carlton and Colwick.

Deborah Moyo is unusual — a woman under the age of 35 becoming a priest. She hopes that this will not be remarkable for long.

“I think, for young women in the past, the Church hasn’t known what to do with them. There’s getting married, but there’s also having children. . . I just don’t think the Church has known what to do with somebody who is a priest but also has children — especially when the mother takes responsibility for childcare, or might want to go part-time, and they don’t know how to accommodate that.

“It’s a real shame, because I think the Church should be the best at doing that. It has been 25 years since women were first ordained, and it’s about time we thought it out. It has been my lifetime.”

Mrs Moyo said that she found her vocation in late 2014, but that she wasn’t immediately convinced: “My dad is ordained, and so is one of my brothers and his wife; so people always said to me: ‘You’re going to be a vicar like your dad,’ which I never thought I was going to do.

“I feel priesting is right, but I’m not sure ‘ready’ is the word; but I suppose that’s what curacy is for. I feel the weight of the responsibility as well, and I can only do it with God’s help. There’s a mixture of nervousness, and of excitement.”


‘My thinking around doctrine changed’

DIOCESE OF GLOUCESTERTom CookTom Cook was ordained deacon in Gloucester Cathedral on Sunday. He will serve his title in the West Cheltenham Benefice.

Tom Cook overcame a life-threatening illness while at university which led to his being in intensive care for two weeks.

In the third year of his religion, philosophy, and ethics degree at the University of Gloucestershire, Mr Cook contracted trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that affects the face. He then suffered an adverse reaction to the medicine: “My face and body started attacking itself and blistering.”

“It was a very difficult time, especially for my wife. . . But what was quite incredible was the amount of peace I had through it — I was constantly thinking about Corinthians 13: faith, hope, and love.”

He was baptised in the Church of England, but grew up in Pentecostal and Baptist churches, before returning to Anglicanism: “My faith in God was unwavering, but my thinking around doctrine changed.”

His university chaplain was the first person to tell him that ordained ministry might be a choice for him; but, Mr Cook said, “I didn’t think they would want me.

“Coming from more of an independent-church background . . . I have loved the C of E. I’ve started to really appreciate the power of symbols. I was happy that the liturgy doesn’t swamp personality.”


‘My teenage self would be completely surprised’

Deepthi WickremasingheDeepthi Wickremasinghe was ordained deacon in Southwark Cathedral on Saturday. She will serve her curacy at St Christopher’s, Walworth, as an NSM.

Advised at school to look for a career in a supermarket at the checkout counter, Deepthi Wickremasinghe has had a “very long journey” to ordination.

A worshipper at St John the Evangelist, East Dulwich, for 30 years, she first sensed a call more than 20 years ago. A women’s spirituality group at the church was a “very strong influence”.

Having had a variety of occupations, including craft bookbinder and journalist, she gained a degree in politics, philosophy, and history, in her thirties. She currently works as a qualitative researcher at a London hospital, helping to evaluate innovations to improve the survival of mothers and babies in countries with high mortality rates, particularly north-east Nigeria.

The daughter of a Sri Lankan father and a British mother, she believes that it is “really important” that the C of E’s clergy reflect the ethnic diversity of the wider population, so that “people have an understanding of who you are, and you have understanding of who they are, and what some of challenges they facing may be.” Her teenage self would be “completely surprised” to see where she had ended up, she said.


‘I had more in common with Anglicans’

Stephen DuntonStephen Dunton was ordained priest in Worcester Cathedral on 22 June. He is serving his title at Pershore with Pinvin, Wick and Birlingham.

Stephen Dunton has served as a Roman Catholic deacon for the past eight years. Baptised and confirmed at 14, he began attending a Methodist church, before moving to an Anglican church, where he became a server.

He was turned down for the ordained ministry at 20, and trained as a teacher instead, teaching RE in a secondary school for 25 years. While attending a Roman Catholic church, he began training as a deacon, and was ordained in 2011.

But, while serving as chairman of Churches Together in Studley, he says, he “began to realise I had more in common with Anglicans. Clergy colleagues also began to mention that they thought I might be in the wrong place. Then I had an experience in Durham Cathedral, where I really felt God was calling me to be a priest in the Anglican Church. I had a real sense that, if I trusted God, then all would be well.”

It was the Anglican sense that “sees everyone in their parish, whether or not they are a churchgoer or baptised, as someone who can be ministered to and served and reached” which attracted him. Although there was a “bit of a bumpy ride” after informing his RC diocese of his calling, he had “a lot of support” from priests and deacons in the Church, and from his former parishioners, who attended his ordination.

Today, he sees himself as “a bit of a bridge, helping Anglicans to understand Roman Catholics, and the other way round”.


‘Mine is a social-justice perspective’

Ruth CoombsRuth Coombs was ordained deacon in Llandaff Cathedral on Saturday. She will serve her title at Roath, Cardiff, as an NSM.

Ruth Coombs is the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Wales, and will continue in this position. “I love my job, and feel very blessed that my ministry and my day job complement each other so well. I have always come from a social-justice perspective; so couldn’t ask for a better fit.”

She first sensed a call to ministry when she was seven, while singing in her local church choir, but was told: “Don’t be silly — you’re a girl.” She went on to serve in a number of lay positions, including as a Reader; but it “didn’t make the nagging go away”. She learned that she had been accepted for training at the same time as she was made head of the EHRC; she had previously worked as a teacher with a focus on special needs, and for a mental-health charity.

The Church has made “a much bigger move towards a more inclusive and more diverse Church” in recent years, she says. “I want to be part of an inclusive Church that is welcoming and engaging, and supports people of all ages from all walks of life, regardless of ethnicity, or socio-economic background, or sexuality.”

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