*** DEBUG END ***

Clergy Support Trust helped me, says curate whose training was hit by lockdown

04 February 2022

Clergy Support Trust

The Revd Matt Grove and the motorhome in which he lived

The Revd Matt Grove and the motorhome in which he lived

AN ASSISTANT CURATE, the Revd Matthew Grove, whose ordination was placed in jeopardy by the first Covid lockdown, believes that his vocation was saved by the Clergy Support Trust (CST).

Mr Grove found himself with no income, living in a defective motorhome on his brother’s drive, and with only a mobile phone for his online studying. The trust adjusted its rules to offer a £500 emergency-support grant, and later provided a laptop, a cooker, access to its online library, and a contribution towards a few days’ holiday with his children.

“The support of the Trust brought hope and encouragement into quite a bleak time,” Mr Grove says. He is now an assistant curate of St John the Baptist, Purbrook, near Portsmouth. “I genuinely don’t think that I would have made it to where I am now without that support at that time.”

In March 2020, at the start of the first lockdown, Mr Grove was in his final months of training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, with a placement offered in Portsmouth diocese. But the lockdown meant that his ordination was postponed, and, as he was unable to live at the college, he faced homelessness, as his vulnerable parents went into isolation at their home in Southampton.

“Everything that I owned, apart from a small suitcase, was in storage,” he said. “The only option I had was to live in my dad’s motorhome. It was dry, and had lights, but that was about it; nothing worked — the shower didn’t work, the toilet didn’t work, the fridge didn’t work.

“I was also worried, as curacies were under threat, and I might not have a job to go to. Then I learned about the trust’s transition grants to cover ordinands’ moving from training to their first stipend. At first, I was told I didn’t qualify, as I was not ordained, but they wanted to help. There was a real desire to make it work and find ways to help rather than ways to reject me. They were absolutely brilliant. It made me believe there could be a successful end to all this.

“The grant helped me buy a kettle, so I had hot water; a bucket to stand in, so I could shower with a cup of warm water; something to cook on, and some pillows and a duvet. It allowed me to be clean, to have a good night’s sleep, and have some food that wasn’t a takeaway. That’s amazing: that’s a real gift.”

In July 2020, Mr Grove was licensed as a lay worker in Portsmouth diocese, and then in October was ordained deacon.

The chief executive of the CST, the Revd Benjamin Cahill-Nicholls, said: “We have to work with criteria, and it is important to us; but we are a Christian charity, and always try to act with compassion. At the end of the day, we do what we say on the tin. It was wonderful that we were able to provide Matt with some help.”

In 2020, the CST, which has been assisting clergy since 1650, provided help for 20 trainees who were facing delays in ordination. In all, it made 2600 payments, totalling £2.5 million, including 1188 emergency grants. The total payout to the 20 ordinands helped in 2020 was £9864. This included help to set up home in a new location, repairs to a car needed for rural ministry, and money to cover loss of part-time casual work during study.

Last month, the Trust received a record 470 applications for assistance. Its support covers anything from general living expenses and help with technology to funding retreats and holidays. It also runs an insomnia programme, and free counselling to counter problems caused by isolation, burnout, or exhaustion.

“The pandemic has been a learning curve for everybody,” Mr Cahill-Nicholls said. “We all had to deal with things we weren’t expecting, but we realised there would be a lot of households facing a new kind of pressure — people who are minutes away from being clergy, and who by rights should be ordained already, but, through no fault of their own, are not.”


Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)