This Saturday 1 July and Sunday 2 July, in four separate services at Winchester Cathedral, 18 people will be made deacons (new vicars), along with 16 being ordained as priests.*
The men and women, who all come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a breadth of life experience, have spent a number of years training in theological colleges, and are now starting a new adventure serving their local communities as Christian leaders. All of them will be licensed as curates in parishes across the Diocese of Winchester which is made up of 255 parishes across Hampshire and East Dorset.
This year’s cohort of new deacons includes a former aeroplane engineer, a retired nurse, and a previous adviser to Archbishop of Canterbury on inter-religious affairs. They demonstrate that there is not just ‘one type’ of person called to ministry within the Church of England and that people from all backgrounds can train for ordination.
One of the deacons, Rhiannon Wilmott, explains how she was a lone parent aged 19 when she first expressed her sense of vocation in an interview at the Job Centre: ‘I said, “I think I am meant to be a vicar”. The woman interviewing me just laughed, and I laughed, and then she got me a job at HM Customs and Excise!’
“All of the things that happen to us, God uses them to shape us and for good, even when they don’t feel good,” continued Rhiannon. “I have learned to inhabit the story of who I am, all the beauty and the learning. I am thankful for it all.”
Some of the ‘new revs’ will be continuing in their existing jobs at the same time as serving as volunteer ministers. Another deacon, Jamie Cann, who is an HR Manager for a local public sector organisation in the diocese, says that remaining in his secular employment means he “can be a bridge between the worlds of church and the workplace.”
He explains how in HR there is a lot of overlap with his future priestly ministry: “You get to walk with people in the key moments of their lives – when they are bereaved, or just found out they are pregnant… It’s very much felt like a calling to create safe spaces for people in these moments and being prepared to listen to people of all faiths and none.”
The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Acting Bishop of Winchester said, “Each year in our Diocese we see a fresh group of men and women of all ages and from different backgrounds responding to God’s call to become a priest or deacon in His church. It is a joy to see them pursuing their vocations and to be part of their journey. We pray for them and their families, and I am looking forward to seeing the ways God uses their many gifts.”
*The new priests are people who were made deacons last year and are ‘priested’ after one year of ministry and are then able to preside over the church’s sacraments such as Holy Communion and weddings.
For further information, please contact the Diocese of Winchester’s media team at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07384547132.
Photos of the services at the Cathedral will be available next week here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cofewinchester Credit: Harvey Mills