We are pleased that we have now been joined by our long-awaited new parish priest - the Reverend James A McDonald, previously Assistant Curate at St Peter, Brackley. Fr James has been asked to write a little introduction piece for us.
It's a great pleasure to be writing to you this month to introduce myself and my wife Rachel. We're both excited about the next chapter of life in York. It'll be something of a home-coming: Rachel read English at York and I read Geology at Leeds. We're looking forward to getting to know you and more of what God is doing among you. Please pray for us as we prepare to move house (always a little stressful!) and be assured of our thoughts and prayers for you.
So, I'll begin at the beginning! I grew up in Oakham, Rutland with my parents David and Denise - a school premises officer and a childminder - and younger brother, Gary. Rachel also grew up in Rutland and we both began our Christian journey by joining our respective parish church choirs. We met at sixth form college and both had some time working before heading to Yorkshire for university: I worked for a local wine merchant and Rachel for Burghley House Estate Office.
During my time at Leeds I began to formally explore my vocation, which had been with me since my time in the choir. I occasionally attended All Hallows parish church which is very inclusive and engaged in its community. It was a real mix of different social and ethnic backgrounds - quite different to Oakham! My main church community at Leeds was the university chaplaincy's 'Cafe Church', an ecumenical 'fresh expression' involving coffee, cake and discussion, drawn together in the Eucharist. The chaplain, his wife and those who led obviously got something right, as I'm by no means the only former member who is now ordained!
After Leeds I worked as a pastoral assistant-cum-youth worker at St Albans Cathedral and was involved in everything from leading a Beaver Scout group, to helping at the annual Alban Pilgrimage, to serving at the choral Eucharist. During my time there I was recommended for training and chose to go to Cuddesdon near Oxford. Rachel graduated from York the summer before the move to Oxfordshire and we were married just two weeks before moving there!
At Cuddesdon, aside from the academic training of the Oxford BA in theology, I acted as joint director of music for a year, was 'Admiral' (social secretary) for a term, helped look after guests and and undertook a number of placements - from an Oxford College chapel to a rural benefice. Meanwhile Rachel volunteered in a number of libraries in Oxford and then began her career as a librarian, first at St John's College and then at Balliol College.
I was pleased to be offered a curacy at St Peter's Brackley - just inside my home diocese! I've enjoyed working with Father Nicholas in this market town, with the challenges of its many care homes and schools and large housing developments. My particular roles have been work with the schools, developing our music and liturgy and assisting in our outreach. I've also kept up my academic theology with an MA; my particular interests are the Reformation, liturgy, spirituality and mission. I look forward to bringing my experience into the York city centre context and learning new things there. Alongside my curacy I've recently become a padre to the Army Cadet Force. I'm joining Oxfordshire ACF for their annual camp later in August - wish me luck!
As many an Anglican cleric would be, I'm very excited to be coming to the home of the NRM! But unlike many Anglican clergy I'm not a fan of cold quiche or milky tea - but we know that strong tea won't be a problem in Yorkshire! Another Anglican stereotype is a fondness for a G&T (lime not lemon) though I'm also partial to real/craft ales. I love music, especially listening to and singing choral music and I look forward to the musical life of the city centre churches. I'm also a keen bellringer, as is Rachel, and we hope to make some progress whilst in York! My other interests include history, architecture, walking and food. And my favourite parable is the parable of the prodigal Son - God reaches out to us in Jesus Christ whether we've wandered far away or grown stubborn and proud nearby. I'm really encouraged by the ways that God is working through you to reach out with his love, purpose and hope into the city and look forward very much to sharing in that with you. In the meantime, I wish you every blessing for the summer.