Mark is an ordinand based in Chelmsford Diocese and studying part-time at West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself, and what being a student here means to him.
A bit about me
I felt called to ministry from a young age, even though I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I have a Pentecostal background, and I’ve always been passionate about sharing my faith and going to church. I was part of the youth leadership team for my church for many years, with 130 young people coming to meetings.
About three and a half years ago I was at a cathedral while a friend was being made a deacon. As the Bishop of Chelmsford was handing him the Bible, I had a vision of a Bishop handing me a Bible at my own ordination. I told my wife, who said, “I hope you’re joking.”
My wife and I have three children, and I and a friend have been running a website business for eighteen years and together have grown it to a team of eight people. The implications of this pathway will have a huge impact on our family, and we are excited for the challenges and opportunities to come.
You have to remember that, when you’re being called, the whole family is being called. My wife and I had many discussions about how it would impact the family. During the process, we really appreciated the support of our DDO, who enabled us to ask the right questions, and facilitated the beginnings of our journey.
Why St Augustine’s College of Theology
I first heard about St. Augustine’s from the Chelmsford diocese website. When I contacted them, Becky was incredibly quick to respond and was genuinely keen to show me around and give meaningful answers to my questions. The college felt very warm and welcoming. I explored a couple of colleges and felt that St Augustine’s, being smaller, enabled more personal interaction between students and staff, which suited me.
The part-time study pattern also worked well for me. I prefer the option to have a full day each week, rather than trying to learn in the evenings after a full day’s work. Everyone supports one another and accepts each other’s differences. The tutors are there to support your growth, and it feels as though they, and your fellow students, are all willing you to succeed. They have different personalities and approaches of course, but they’re all aiming to get you to the right place.
West Malling is also surprisingly easy to get to from the Chelmsford area, so it works really well. Because of my family and business commitments, I aim to continue to work part-time and enter ordained ministry as a self-supporting minister in my local community.
How is your course helping to shape your leadership?
I never really connected with the more traditional Anglican services before; it’s been really beneficial to me to understand how the liturgy supports faith. Some of my academic studies have been very challenging. Biblical studies, for example, blew apart my understanding of the Bible, but the course and the tutors gave me space to re-form my view. Studying Church History has also been formative; developing my understanding of how and why the Church is what is it today.
The support you get here is an essential part of your formation, I think. There have been some challenging personal times during my studies, and the support I’ve had here has helped me to grow through those experiences. When I first thought about going to college I thought it was about education, and didn’t understand what was meant by formation. Now I understand that they’re not trying to shape you – they are guiding you to shape yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to shape you from within.
All this has helped me to strengthen and deepen my faith and my relationship with God.