Increasing numbers of people are seeking ordination and other forms of ministry with the Church in Wales. Figures from the Diocese of St Asaph over the last five years show a ten-fold increase in the number starting ordination training. In 2012 there were no candidates starting academic training. Since then numbers have grown steadily and in September 2017, ten people started courses to become a priest.
At the same time, there has been a rise in the number of people seeking unpaid forms of ministry such as licensed readers, evangelists and lay pastors. For the first time this year, the Diocese of St Asaph is sponsoring a young couple from Prestatyn who are training to become full time Christian youth workers.
The Director of Ministry at the Diocese of St Asaph, Canon Dr Manon Ceridwen James said: “I’m delighted with the rise in number of candidates starting their ordination training. This reflects an increased commitment from people to their faith with better opportunities to study in flexible ways.
“The Diocese of St Asaph has invested heavily in training for both its paid clergy and unpaid lay members or volunteers and this is encouraging people to take theology seriously and explore all sorts of forms of ministry.
“We’ve got people from all backgrounds following their vocation or calling to become a priest or follow other ministries – former police officers, ex teachers, a bin man, nurses, social workers and business men and women. The days of the traditional stereotypical male priest is no longer relevant in this diocese.”
In 2016 the Church in Wales opened a new training centre, St Padarn’s, which allows three routes to ministry training – full-time residential training in Cardiff, part-time training split between Cardiff and the Diocese of St Asaph or full time in the diocese.
The first youth workers in paid training are Jon and Esther Andrews from Prestatyn. They work on placement in Prestatyn (Jon) and Towyn (Esther) for the first half of the week and study for two days each week in Cardiff. Jon said: “I felt that I’d had a calling to youth ministry for a number of years. It’s good that the Church in Wales recognises the importance of youth work and is now in a position where they can train people for such ministry. Its great training down in Cardiff, broadening my skills and widening my theology with an awesome group of students and lecturers.”
Esther added: “I’m training to be a licensed lay youth and children’s worker which is very exciting. I feel that God has given me a heart for evangelism to young people and I love how creative youth outreach can be.”
Among those who have started their training to be priests are:
- Helen Dawson, 39 from Caerwys in Flintshire, who works part time in her husband’s business and has three children. Helen is training to be a full time paid priest. Helen said: “I left school at 16 so going back into academic study has been a tremendous change for me. It’s challenging and interesting but not as hard as I thought it might be. I came back to church when my children started attending the local church school. After that I became a church warden but knew there was more I could do. Gradually I realised that I was being guided towards becoming a priest.”
- James Tout, 29 years old, is the director of science at The Marches School, Oswestry. James, a fluent Welsh speaker, is training to be a part-time unpaid priest. He said: “I have been exploring a call to ordained ministry since I was around 19 years old. It’s hard to describe, and is different for everyone but for me it’s like a constant tapping in my mind, every time I think ‘no it can’t be me’ there is a constant unmistakable tapping that seems to drum to the beat of ‘yep, it’s you’. I tried to calm the tapping by taking on more responsibility in the churches I have worshiped in, nevertheless none of these worked. The best piece of advice I have for anyone is pray, the answer may be scary, challenging, frightening even; but be bold and trust in God.”
- Gregor Lachlann-Waddell, 32 years old, who used to work as a binman in Ruthin.
Those training for other forms of non-clerical ministry are:
- Wendy Shillito from Llanferres near Mold, who has taken early retirement as a GP to retrain as a licensed Reader. Wendy said: “My original vocation was to medicine and I was privileged to work for over 30 years in that profession. I am equally privileged to be training for Lay Ministry at a particularly exciting and challenging time in the history of the Church in Wales. “
- Tom Attwell, from Bontuchel who is training to become a Reader at St Asaph Cathedral. Tom said: “I was a worship leader before starting the Theology for Life course. A year later I felt drawn to be a Reader because I wanted to share with others of all ages the love of God through Jesus Christ. I have been blessed with first class support from my priests and I would add that a willingness to act on one’s own initiative is vital to the training process.”
More information about the training available in the Diocese of St Asaph can be found at http://stasaph.churchinwales.org.uk/life/steering-groups/developing/