What a joy and privilege it is to be able to share something of my vocational story with you on this blog, as it has been to read the stories of others. My name is Ian and I have been a Commissioned Evangelist with Church Army since 1991 and ordained in the Anglican church since 2012. I’ll tell you know about those two major strands of my Christian calling, and what it means to me to be part of the dispersed mission community that is Church Army.
It was during my late teens when I felt the first stirrings of God’s call on my life and I was confirmed at the age of 20. Soon after, I married Ann and we had our family. By my mid-20s, though working in a very well-paid job as a typesetter on our local newspaper, I knew that God was nudging me in a different direction which I thought was the priesthood.
As it turned out that was an avenue that I could not pursue at that time as my wife had been married previously and, at that time, the Church in Wales (where we lived) would not consider people who were divorced or married to a divorcee for ordination. Disappointed, I looked for what else might be possible and was selected to train as a Reader, being licensed in 1986. It was a ministry that I enjoyed but was still left feeling unfulfilled. At that point I discovered Church Army and pushed the door on that possibility.
A society of Evangelists founded in 1882 by an Anglican clergyman named Wilson Carlile, Church Army has always has as it focus the people who are pushed to the margins of society, the very people whom Carlile believed the Church of England of his day were failing to reach. Working with ‘the least, the last, and the lost’ was the passion of our Founder on which Church Army has been built. Much of our work today is focused in Centres of Mission across the UK and in Ireland where our evangelists work in partnership with Dioceses to reach beyond the boundaries of traditional church with the message of the gospel.
Following a rigorous selection process, my calling to Church Army was recognised and I trained for three years at the Church Army College in Blackheath from 1998-1991 before being Admitted to the Office of Evangelist and Commissioned as a Church Army Evangelist. I have belonged to the Church Army family since that time, serving in various posts including being a parish evangelist, a trainer in evangelism, a tutor and lecturer for Church Army, and latterly the Anglican Chaplain and Multifaith Chaplaincy Co-ordinator at Sheffield Hallam University from where I retired in 2018.
Church Army ministry has always been immensely fulfilling, so it came as quite a surprise when the sense of calling to the priesthood resurfaced for me in 2011. I was on retreat when, unexpectedly, I felt God encouraging me to push the door again. This time it opened. I was ordained deacon in 2012 and priest in 2013. Since my ordination I have been on the clergy team at Sheffield Cathedral and I continue there in a self-supporting role as a Minor Canon.
I feel doubly blessed in having had the opportunity to serve God as both a lay and ordained minister while being a part of the Church Army community. We became a recognised mission order in 2012, though throughout our history have lived by a common rule of life and related to each other as part of a dispersed community, joined with each other through prayer as we seek to serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and make his love known to all.
Our vision is for everyone everywhere to encounter God’s love, and be empowered to transform their communities through faith shared in words and action.
Our values are captured by the acronym GRACEUP (Generous, Risk-taking, Accountable, Collaborative, Expectant, Unconditional, Prayerful). To find out more about our vision and values, simply click on this link.
If you have read this far, thank you for listening to my story. Should you wish to know more about Church Army’s history and work, or if you feel God might be calling you to explore the possibility of joining the Church Army Mission Community, please click on the links below. May God bless you in all that you do in his name.
Here are some useful Links