On 25 June, eight people will be ordained deacon at Gloucester Cathedral. One of our ordinands, Simon Phillips, shares his story.
Simon, 30, from Cheltenham, is married to Annie. They have two children and are expecting their third child in September. From a young age, Simon felt a strong calling to ordination.
Where did your journey to ordination begin?
“I was born in Bath and grew up in a Christian family on the outskirts of Bristol. My mum died when I was five and I was raised by my grandparents and my dad. They took me to the local United Reformed Church and then I joined the youth group at our local Pentecostal church with some of my friends from school, but I landed in an Anglican church when I was in my teens, which again lots of my friends from school went to. At 14, I went to New Wine with the youth group and it really felt like home to me.
“At 19, I went to Trinity College, Bristol, as an independent student, where I met Annie and we married in my third year. Annie was offered a job as a youth minister at St Matthew’s so we moved to Cheltenham, and I got a job at Pittville School as a teaching assistant, and also worked as a youth worker for The Rock.
“Before starting ordination training, I worked for a couple of years at St Luke’s Cheltenham, then as Associate Minister at St Matthew’s, looking after students and young adults, and the evening congregation.”
When did you feel called to become ordained?
“From my mid-teens I really felt like God was calling me to some kind of ministry. I wasn’t really sure what that would look like and I thought for a long time that I would be in some kind of teacher role first. Most of the people I knew who had done ministry had gone into it a bit later in life, but when I was 18, I did an internship at Soul Survivor, Watford, and saw young people there who were getting ordained and started to feel that God was calling me to this sooner rather than later.
“Coming alongside people, being able to spend all my time telling people about Jesus, I think that’s just always what I’ve been made for. I loved youth work and working in schools, and would have loved a vocation as a teacher but I knew that going down that path would stop me from going down this one, which I felt more called to. I filled out the application for teacher training at several points, but could never bring myself to submit it, because I knew it would put off ordination.”
What were the highlights of your training?
“I started the discernment process years ago, when I was at Soul Survivor, and it’s been a bit stop start ever since. When I was 21, I went to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel and I wasn’t recommended and then we moved to Cheltenham and I initiated things and met up with Ian Bussell [the then Diocesan Director of Ordinands], but the timing wasn’t right either. Then I got speaking to Ann [Sargent] in 2020 and she was really encouraging. So, for me, it was quite a long process but I’ve learned so much in the meantime. My time at St Luke’s and St Matthew’s added to my experience and so when the time eventually came, it just seemed to all fall into place and the BAP went really well.
“After BAP, I went back to Trinity College for ordination training, where I did their Dispersed Learning programme. Since I had already studied theology before, I loved that this meant that I could learn in a different way through my placement church, as well as regularly going down to Bristol for ‘block weeks’ of lectures, and to spend time with others who were coming from all over the country. The social times and opportunities to build friendships were an important part of this, and I feel I’ve made some friends to support me through the future years of ministry. One of my highlights was playing in Trinity’s mixed netball tournament. My height (I’m 6ft 5in) meant I turned out not to be a bad goal defence, even if I did keep being penalised for contact because I’m more used to playing rugby.”
Where will you serve once you are ordained?
“I had an idea of which curacy I might like and Holy Trinity, Tewkesbury, was one of those, and I thought it would be great. So when the Diocese of Gloucester offered it to me I jumped at it. I’m really looking forward to starting and learning from the Revd Stephen Walker. It really feels like God’s prepared the ground for this role.”
Simon will be ordained deacon on Sunday 25 June at 10.15 am in Gloucester Cathedral.