I began to have a sense of vocation to ordained ministry in my schooldays, and nearly trained for ordination after graduating in 1968. However, in the end it seemed best to develop another career first, and I went into clinical psychology. I eventually trained for ordination at Westcott House and the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, and was ordained in 1990 at the age of 44.
My first ministry was in Harston and Hauxton, two villages just outside Cambridge, doing that on a non-stipendiary basis and combining it with my work at the MRC. I had not expected to work in rural ministry, but responded to the obvious need in the place where I was already living. I found that I enjoyed village ministry hugely and, unusually, became Priest-in-Charge only a few months after becoming a Priest. The congregations grew significantly, to the point where the workload of running two churches in my spare time became unsustainable. I resigned so that a stipendiary minister could be appointed who could devote more time to the parishes, and I left in January 1995.
After a short break I moved to take responsibility for St Edward’s Church in the centre of Cambridge, combining that with my University work. There was always something of a tension between the wishes of the largely elderly congregation who wanted little change, and the intentions of Trinity Hall who appointed me. They hoped that I would develop the church in a way that would broaden its appeal and extend its age range. One member of the appointment committee hoped that St Edward’s would become the ‘St James Piccadilly’ of Cambridge
After some false starts we evolved a strategy of leaving Sunday mornings alone, but developing a range of new services and activities at other times. Eventually, even our rather staid service at 11.00 am on Sundays became overtaken by a tide of renewal. We started a ‘meditative’ Sunday evening Eucharist at 5.00 pm at which we kept words to a minimum, maintained a thoughtful atmosphere, and had 5 minutes of complete silence. We found that we were appealing with people who saw themselves as more spiritual than religious, many of whom had a background in New Age.
Other priorities developed. We tried to relate Christianity better to aspects of contemporary culture such as science and poetry. We reached out to various alienated minorities, for example holding a service for Goths, and a discussion group for LGBT people. We tried to square up to the global problems of humanity that call for reconciliation and spiritual renewal, and joined the Community of the Cross of Nails. We tried to turn ourselves into a healing community where people would be helped with personal problems.
Overleaf are two sermons preached at St Edward’s. The first gives a general view of the kind of church I long to see. The other addresses current global problems, which I increasingly see as spiritual issues.