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From Secular Work to Full-time Ministry

Rob Bridgewater

From Secular Work to Full-time Ministry

Rob works and lives as a Curate (trainee minister) at St John’s church in Chapeltown, Sheffield. He’s married to Caroline - who’s much cleverer than him - and has three school aged daughters.

Rob, what are you doing now?

I’m a Curate at St John’s Chapeltown in Sheffield; I’ve been there since July 2015, so I’ve been in full time ministry for around 18 months.     

You’re not the youngest of spring chickens, are you?

Let’s say mid forties.  Just about.  I’m married to Caroline and we have three school-aged daughters.

How old were you when you started training?

Over 40!  We decided to go and train full-time at Oak Hill in London, which was fantastic and meant I could really concentrate on building character, skills and knowledge.  

What did you do before you started training for ministry?

I worked for an advisory firm that helped company pension funds sort things out as old types of pension schemes closed.  It was good - intellectually stimulating, sometimes fast paced and always rewarding: it was good to help organisations make sure their pension schemes were being run well.

What persuaded you to stop doing that and start training for ministry?

Many things! I’d had a question rumbling around for a number of years about full time ministry, but it never seemed to be the right time to sort it out. Work itself made me think more too; I was pouring energy into helping people have a secure old age, but I thought that the more important task was to tell people about Jesus and a secure eternity.  So I thought that if I’ve got 25-30 years of working life - God willing – I ought to think about spending that time in the best way possible.   I don’t think it was a mid-life crisis…

How did you go about working out whether this was God’s plan?

Philip, a godly and wise minister, showed me the brilliant introduction to the Ordination service in the Book of Common Prayer.  It says that church ministers, “which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same.”  From this I took it that being tested for the right qualities is essential to working out whether anyone should be a minister in God’s church.   

For me that was a case of praying, seeking opportunity and wise counsel, from the Bible and other Christians.  I agreed a shorter working week, and the first thing I did was get onto a Ministry Training Course to see if I had the ability to teach the Word.  I wasn’t super, but heading in the right direction at least.  At the same time I worked with a minister at our church in Sheffield to help out in some of the evangelism events.  

I then joined a church plant team from that church, and Ed, the minister very graciously, and bravely asked me to be an assistant Minister.  I still worked three or four days a week.  This was fantastic, and really helped that testing process I mentioned earlier.  Then it was a case of trusting God through the C of E vocations process.

What’s difference between thinking about full-time ministry in your 20s compared to your 40s?

I’ve got family and had all sorts of commitments: full time training and ministry meant job resignation, a change of schools, a change of home and the way we spent time together.  That took longer than it would have done when I was younger.  I had to make sure that the whole family were in on the adventure - my wife and daughters have been terrific, though. I thank God for them!