“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t go to church, but it wasn’t until my mid-teens that I began to grasp what it was really all about. At the time when I was beginning to lose interest a friend invited me to go to our local parish church (where I’d never been before.) About the same time my brother took me to a Sunday afternoon Bible Class run by the Crusaders, which met in the church hall. In both places I heard good biblical teaching and met people who lived what they believed, and especially the Crusader leaders, who invited us to their homes after the meeting. Over the next year I became increasingly aware that Jesus had died for me – to take away my sins and give me new life in him. I came to share the experience of the blind man in John’s Gospel Chapter 9: “Once I was blind, now I can see.” Life took on a new purpose and meaning.
After leaving school and failing my end of first year university exams I moved to the south coast and worked in the trustee department of Lloyds Bank. I was involved in the local church and Crusaders, and over the next few years felt God might be calling me to ordained ministry in the Church of England. I was accepted for training and spend a stimulating 5 years at Oak Hill College in North London. In the summer vacation at the end of my 3rd year I had a life-changing experience. I received an invitation from a missionary working in Vienna to visit him for two weeks. I was rather taken aback to discover when I arrived that his work was helping Christians ‘behind the iron curtain’. A couple of days later he asked me to go with him to Romania!
Over the next two years I made two further trips to Eastern Europe and seriously considered doing more of that straight after college. But under the guidance of a wise and sympathetic bishop, I was ordained and spent 3 years as a curate in my home town in the Midlands, and it while I was there that I met and married my wife Anna.
But then we set off to Germany, with the intention of setting up a base for travelling into Eastern Europe, and we did make a couple of trips. But we also became involved in the Anglican chaplaincy in Freiburg, and when I was invited to be chaplain in Davos, Switzerland, we felt that was what God wanted us to do. The following year I was invited to come to Düsseldorf.
Christ Church was very different then, and after a year it was clear to us that we were not coping – and our marriage was under pressure, so after talking to the bishop, I resigned. We had at least been involved in the planning of Mulvany House (named after the founder of Christ Church in Dusseldorf) and saw the foundations dug before we left. So we were delighted to be able to stay in the house this summer!
What next? While we waited for God to show us we were able to stay with a vicar friend in north west London, and with his help were able to go to work at Meadgate church in the parish of St. Mary’s, Great Baddow, Essex. This was just right for us, a lively young church with shared leadership, and a very supportive vicar.
After 3 happy years at Meadgate we were rather surprised to find God calling us ‘back to the continent’. We were accepted by the European Christian Mission for church work in Austria, and after further language study and acclimatisation we worked for 3 years in the ‘Christliche Gemeinde Dornbirn’, which had been started some 10 years before. In many ways Meadgate had been an ideal preparation, though perhaps the challenges in Austria were greater.
I was then asked by the mission leader to set up a short wave radio station in Ravenna, Italy, to broadcast into Eastern Europe. The mission already had a studio in Vienna producing programmes in Albanian and Croatian, and a missionary in Ravenna who made his house available for the transmitter.
So we moved to Vienna and spent the next 6 years developing this, including 18 months in Ravenna (when the missionary moved back to the USA) and until someone else was found to operate the radio station.
On our return to Vienna we visited the Anglican chaplaincy (for the first time) and I was immediately asked to help – this was just after the iron curtain went down and the chaplain was developing the chaplaincies in Prague and Budapest for the next year I went once a month to Budapest.
During this we began to feel God was calling us back to church work, so I spent the next 4 years as assistant chaplain in Zürich. With our boys reaching secondary school age and no obvious openings in German-speaking Europe, we then returned to the UK where I was vicar of St. Mary’s Harmondsworth (with most of Heathrow airport in the parish) for the next 4 years.
With Anna’s parents in Cornwall getting older (and we didn’t very much like the idea of spending the rest of our ‘working’ lives within earshot of Heathrow and the M25) we moved to North Devon, where I became team vicar with responsibility for 5 deeply rural parishes, a very different kind of experience from any before! We were enjoying the challenges of rural life and ministry, but all too soon I had to take early retirement because of stress/exhaustion – my doctor suggested my varied life had finally caught up with me! We moved just 8 miles to the bungalow we had been able to buy just after we moved to Devon, and are still there 13 years later.”