Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RAF sergeant, scientist and footballer among new Lichfield clergy

Lichfield Diocese ordained 22 new deacons coming from a variety of professions over the weekend.

The clergymen and women, ordained over two services in Lichfield Cathedral, will be appointed to parishes across Staffordshire, north Shropshire and the Black Country.

They include 55-year-old former RAF sergeant Stephen Reynolds, Catherine McBride, a 44-year-old biologist and curate in Meole Brace, Shrewsbury, who works on drug trials at Glaxo Smithkline, and Darren Fraser, 37, a former schoolboy footballer with the Wolves and West Brom.

Reynolds, who served in the RAF for 22 years and now works as a civil servant for the Department of Work and Pensions, has been appointed as a non-stipendiary ordained local minister at St John’s Church in Heath Hayes, Cannock. He said he saw no conflict between serving in the military and the church.

“I think the two stereotypes are actually completely wrong. A good many Christians serve in the Royal Air Force and serve for the greater good of humanity,” he said.

“Armed forces aren’t there to necessarily go to war. It’s never the idea. You always hope to avoid conflict and come to a peaceful conclusion which is what we aim to do in the church as well. I think the two roles meld together quite nicely but different people have different perspectives on the two roles.”

He added that the RAF had been good preparation for life as a church minister.

“In the Air Force you have to get along with people because you are thrown together with people from varying backgrounds, different social classes and all sorts; so I think that leads very nicely to a church life where you have got a mixed variety in the congregations.

“The one thing that will be a big major change is not being able to give people orders and having them obeyed straight away which, in the Air Force you obey orders to the best of your ability.”

McBride insisted, meanwhile, that faith and science were compatible. She said she was excited at the prospect of being in Shrewsbury for next year’s 200th anniversary celebrations of Charles Darwin’s birth. The British scientist was born in the town on 12 February 1809.

She said the anniversary of Darwin’s birth provided the ideal opportunity for debate on the relationship between faith and science.

“There are a lot of people out there who realise there is something more to life than the physical that we can see and touch and taste and feel and that science and faith aren’t incompatible,” said McBride.

“I see them as being completely compatible. I’ve always been interesting in science. From a very young girl I did science all the way through school and yet I was a Christian at the same time.

“I have always found that the more I have learned about the human body, the world in general, space… the more I have thought that there must be something else out there as well behind all this.

“Quite how it happened I’m still fairly open about, but I have no problem with something like evolution. I think that’s just how God did it.”

Fraser, who is now serves as resident minister of St Stephen’s Bentilee in Bucknall, said that his background in sports gave him a good conversation opener to engage with young people in discussions about faith.

“I was brought up on a council housing estate in Ashmore Park in Wolverhampton and from my early years I loved sport and loved playing sport.

“With young people from primary school through to senior school, when they know you’ve got a sporting background, once they recognise you’re a normal person and have actually had a fairly normal upbringing and enjoy sport,” he said.

“It’s then that I am able to come alongside them, develop that relationship and they can understand more about what a local church minister and a priest actually does in the community.”

Other new clergy recruits include a car salesman and farmer. They will add to the 27 new lay ministers licensed by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, in Lichfield Cathedral last weekend.

Ordination as deacon is the first of three levels of ordained ministry in the Church of England, out of deacon, priest and bishop.

This weekend will see more ordination services in local churches across the Diocese of Lichfield for 17 clergy who were ordained as deacons last year. They will be appointed as priests across the diocese.

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Sotto Voce

(Source: CT)

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