Fernhurst, Lynchmere and Camelsdale Churches
A note from the Vicarage...
I have to admit, it took me a bit by surprise.
My piece in this magazine last month on how I became a vicar generated a
considerable amount of interest. You, know, me falling and breaking my back
and all that. A number of people asked me if I could write a bit more about my
story. So, being an obliging sort of chap, I will…
I suppose the seed might have been sown when I took my driving test. I
remember it well, even though it was, er, some time ago. I remember the
tension of the whole thing. I remember seeing the examiner’s fingers and
knuckles whiten on the dashboard as I performed a very satisfying emergency
stop. I remember doing the best three-point turn of my life up to that point. I
remember being held up by, of all things, another learner driver who was
crawling along at twenty miles per hour in front of me. And I remember the
examiner turning to me after he had asked me to pull up by the side of the
road (I didn’t realise at first that it was the end of the test) and telling me that
Then, while I took in this momentous announcement, he paused and said,
“You’re a very serious-looking young man. Are you going to be a vicar when
Of course, it was probably his standard way of breaking the ice at the end of a
successful test. He’d probably said it to hundreds of young people who, like
me, had been concentrating fiercely during their tests and inevitably looked
rather serious about the whole thing.
But it stuck in my mind. At the very least, from then on I filed ‘vicar’ mentally
under ‘vaguely possible life choices.’ Reflecting on it later, though, I started to
think, why should being a vicar mean looking serious all the time? Had the
examiner known a particularly grumpy vicar? Why should ‘religion’ be
equated with a lack of humour and humanity? And, of course, it shouldn’t,
even though there have been many through history who have tried to be ‘holy’
by being glum and boring. Christ most definitely wasn’t like that. He spent a
lot of his time at parties. He said that he came to bring us life in all its fulness.
And that life that he brings to us as he breaks the power of death on Easter
Sunday is full of godly and holy hope and happiness, despite what life may
throw at us. All things become possible through his love and power.
Even becoming a vicar. With a sense of humour.
With every blessing,
This year, 2024, will mark the twelfth year that I’ve been the Vicar of Fernhurst. Amazing, isn’t it?
But, as a lot of you will know, I haven’t always been a vicar. I’ve had previous careers. Leaving aside the interesting fact that one definition of ‘career’ is ‘to run uncontrollably downhill’, I regularly find myself being asked how I actually became a vicar. Not, notice, how ‘one’ becomes a vicar – the formal process involved – but how I came to be a vicar, recognising that this will have been a big step for me to take.
Well, it all started with a water leak. Yes, really. I’d come downstairs early one morning, in my pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers, to make a cup of tea for Anita and myself, and I noticed that there was water on the floor in the utility room. So I looked up, and I saw a very wet patch on the ceiling. And sighed, because and I knew that immediately above that wet patch were the main central heating pipes, and that they must be leaking. So (being a typical man), I got a stepladder there and then, and climbed up to the ceiling hatch to investigate. And all I remember after that is that, as I was pushing the hatch upwards and sideways into the roof space, the stepladder went one way, and I went another. I ended up falling from ceiling height flat on my back on to a concrete floor. The pain was unbelievable. I couldn’t move. An ambulance was called. The paramedics took me to hospital strapped to one of those spinal boards. Scans were done. The verdict: I’d broken my back. To say that this changed my plans for the day would be a massive understatement. I spent the best part of a week in hospital, and then six months convalescing.
Which gave me time to think and reflect…
When I was well enough to leave the house, I started to have lunch with my vicar every week in the local pub. We talked about this and that, faith, the church, and all sorts of things. And one day he said to me, “Have you ever thought about becoming ordained?” And I said, “Yes – but I’ve always kind of discounted myself.” And he said, “Why?” That was the question that changed the course of my life in a very unexpected way.
I found that it’s not easy becoming a vicar. There’s an immense amount of work involved, much of it academic, and lots of in-depth interviews with bishops and the like. Not unreasonably (in fact, very sensibly!) the Church wants to be assured that this is a genuine ‘call’. But I sailed through it all, probably because the passion for being a priest that developed in me grew from that time of enforced reflection, together with the perceptiveness and prompting of a friend.
There’s more to tell of course. Lunch in the pub, anyone?
With every blessing,