CANON Timothy Ball is to become Team Rector at the church where, 32 years ago, he was first brought to faith.
Canon Ball has just been appointed Team Rector Designate of the Great Baddow Team Ministry near Chelmsford, in Essex. His team includes St Mary’s, Great Baddow, where, in 1989, he had his conversion experience.
In 1989, he was a 29-year-old firefighter whose religious views ranged from agnosticism to atheism. A colleague who worshipped at St Mary’s invited him and his wife, Anita, to a live broadcast of a Billy Graham UK tour event. “Anita was profoundly affected,” he said; “so the next day, we went to St Mary’s. We engaged with the worship and with the preaching of the gospel. Four weeks later, the curate visited our home, and that evening we were led to the Lord.
“Seven months later, during a church weekend, I had a Holy Spirit experience, the like of which I had never had before. It was a profound moment, and I trace everything in respect of ministry back to that. It was what Wesley called ‘the quickening of the heart’. Once I processed that, I knew I wasn’t going to spend the next 20 years working in the fire service.”
His volunteering at St Mary’s increased, and he eventually started ordination training at Trinity College, Bristol. He was made deacon at a church in Harlow, Essex, in 1996.
“I think there had always been a call to faith deep within me, despite my thinking I could not believe these things,” he said. “I was looking for permission to believe. Strangely, when I was a teenager, if you had asked me what, beyond my wildest dreams, I would like to be when I grew up, it was not an astronaut or a footballer, but a vicar — even though I didn’t believe in God. It was just something about the job itself.”
Apart from three years in a parish in the Lake District, he has spent his ordained ministry in Essex. “I am an Essex man,” he said. “I am most at home here.” For 12 years, he was Vicar of Holy Trinity, Springfield, before becoming a Team Vicar at Great Baddow, in 2015. “It felt like a big homecoming, and it enlivened my ministry,” he said. His appointment this month as Team Rector, on his 61st birthday, was part of a restructuring of the team.
“I wonder how many people have returned as a priest to where they found their faith,” he said. “It would be a nice little ‘club’ for those who have become rectors of the church where they were converted.”