Diocese of Chichester

Ahead of Vocation Sunday (24 April 2022), we hear from 12 people across the diocese describing how the Diocese has encouraged, equipped & supported them in their vocation.

Please share these stories to encourage more people to explore their vocation and encourage greater diversity in the Diocese and to promote lay and ordained ministry amongst people who may be under-represented in the Diocese.

Godfrey Kesari, Vicar at Southwater Parish

Whilst praying about vocation, it is vital to remember that God and His calling are what matter – the identity of those who are called is of secondary importance. The calling overwhelms you with joy; you don’t think in terms of your identity; be it national, racial, gender, disability or any other.

I come from a minority ethnic background. From November 2010, I have been the Parish Priest in Southwater, within the diocese of Chichester. I have to say that the Chichester diocese has always supported me.

Senior staff of the diocese have reassured me more than once – saying you are a priest like any other. In January 2018, in addition to being a parish priest, I had been asked to be the Interfaith Adviser of the diocese. This diocese genuinely encourages diversity.

In my experience, Chichester diocese affirms that the Christian way of life provides more than enough space for all of us to learn together and journey together in peace, hope and love. Being part of a minority group can be challenging but the redeeming good news is that the love of Christ on the cross has the power to breach shallow differences and save the entire world.

Harriet Neale-Stevens, Rector at Harting with Elsted and Treyford cum Didling

When I was sponsored to train for ordination by the Diocese of Chichester, my children were very young, and we wondered as a family whether it would be possible to juggle family life and the intensity of ordination training. It turned out to be very possible! I trained at Westcott House in Cambridge and we moved there together as a family for two years, living on site in the college.It was great fun, and an experience I would recommend. The diocese then placed me in a curacy which was really great for our family. There was a good village school, and also secondary school nearby, and the parish was just the sort that has set me up well for incumbency which I am now enjoying.

Yes, my family have moved three times in five years – but it has been a very enriching experience for them, and one which I have no regrets about. The diocese have supported us all the way, and worked hard to ensure that my whole family have felt valued and loved.

Jessica Reid, Assistant Curate at St Nicholas, Brighton

As a clergy couple with a young family, we take to heart what the Church says about how ministry, relationships, and parenthood relate to each other. It matters to us that the Church says that marriage should not be thought of as a vocation secondary to ministry. It means just as much when the Church says that being a parent is a holy calling and ordained ministry should not be placed above raising children with love, care, time, and space. As encouraging as this is, however, the reality can sometimes feel far away. The demands of ministry can threaten to swamp family life and vice versa. Crucially, we have continually discovered we are not alone. Every step of the way, from ordination training to curacy and beyond, the diocese has supported us in discerning how our vocations to the priesthood and to our family enrich one another to the glory of God.

John Naudé, Associate Minister at The Point, Burgess Hill

When I was called by God to go into the Anglican church some 24 years ago, I thought it would be impossible for the C of E to accept me as someone who permanently uses a wheelchair and from a council estate in Liverpool. The person responsible for my selection and discernment very wisely said ‘if God is calling you, then it is our responsibility to ensure that we together fulfil that calling’.

I have been a Vicar in 2 other dioceses, a missionary in Malawi and now Assoc. Vicar at The Point Church. When God calls, he also equips and that has meant that each diocese & Chichester diocese has also played its part in the equipping. It has made adjustments to enable me to fulfil the call that God has put on my life.

Whoever you may be, whatever your past, whatever your limited abilities (that applies to everyone) God calls and uses everyone – see 1 Corinthians 12 and the Body of Christ – everyone is needed to enable the Body of Christ to fully operate. You ARE needed.

Lisa Barnett, Team Rector at Horsham

I have the privilege of having been the first clergy person in the diocese of Chichester to have taken a Maternity Leave when, a year into my first incumbency, I fell pregnant with twins. It was all very daunting, being a ‘newbie’ vicar at the same time as being a ‘newbie’ mum, and wondering whether I would manage the juggling required to honour both of these precious vocations. But I needn’t have worried.

My parish, in Scaynes Hill, were so supportive and loving through both of my pregnancies and subsequent maternity leaves. The diocese offered generous maternity leave provision, and were so encouraging as I developed creative ways of living out these twin vocations. I am so grateful to God for his call, and the privilege that it is to serve Him.

Lizzi Green, Assistant Curate at Gossops Green and Saint Albans, Bewbush

"I've never really thought of myself as a typical candidate for ordained ministry.  I grew up on a London estate, the first person in my family to even think about university.  I also have ADHD and dyspraxia, which affect the way I learn and process information, so the thought of voluntarily doing further study seemed a bit mad!  The Diocese of Chichester has been a great support to me in all of this.  It’s allowed me the space to pursue some of my passions in advocacy, in particular on the area of child poverty – my own experiences have made me very keen to involve the church in these issues.  I’ve also had the encouragement and support I needed throughout training, and I’ve recently completed my MA – not something I would have seen myself doing, but which has really added to my ministry.  I feel really grateful to be a curate here".

Lucy Sullivan, Priest in Charge Aldwick and Pagham

“I arrived in the Diocese of Chichester as a keen sports undergraduate with a rather reluctant and uncertain heart for responding to the seed of a vocation to ordained ministry that seemed to be germinating. It was through the parish I first attended here that I met clergy who broke away from the mold that I had grown up with, and showed me that people from all sorts of backgrounds can be called to serve God in priestly ministry. And most importantly, that I was being called as Lucy, and not as someone who I thought I had to grow into first. 

There has been great support all the way through discernment, residential training and curacy. Conversations with clergy and congregations across traditions as well as local and international placements have helped me to find a language to speak of this calling and a heart that is excited to continue seeking and responding!”

Marisa Hayes, Children's Worker at Ringmer

As a younger member of the church family, I was naturally drawn to get involved in aspects of young people’s work and very much learnt as I went along. When the opportunity to train for Lay Ministry came up, I decided it would be just right for me. After the series of short, informal sessions I felt equipped and more confident in being able to not only take part but to lead all sorts of activity.

I said from the outset that it wouldn’t change me; I’m no better than anyone else, but I am more confident and with the support of the whole church family, I’m leading worship, organising outreach activities and supporting the primary school. 

Lay Ministry supports the work of the church in so many aspects; from providing pastoral care to getting silly with the toddlers. Having lay people involved in so many aspects of our church life has brought a new depth and resilience.

Martha Weatherill, Priest in Charge of Lavant and Rural Dean of Chichester

Although the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, going into ordained ministry was not one of my desires, I was happy serving as a lay member of the church. I wanted to work as a business person in the City of London. My calling came unexpectedly during a Holy Communion service in a Care Home in Eastbourne, when one of the residents mentioned how grateful they were for bringing the Church to them in the Care Home. At that moment, it became clear to me that serving God and his children as a Priest, is what I was born to do. Members of my sponsoring church (St. John’s Meads, Eastbourne) have said that they always sensed this long before I did.

I have been fortunate to have one of the best Training Incumbents and curacies (St. Paul’s, Chichester) in the Diocese of Chichester where I have been enabled and encouraged to grow the gifts I have been given by God. The Bishop of Chichester has been a great support to me and my family and I am full of gratitude and amazement as to how much I have grown since the first time I went to see him saying “I think the Lord might be calling me to serve him and his Church as an Ordained Minister”.

In conclusion, I believe that being an Ordained Minister is the best vocation in the world and I would give my right arm to do it even if I wasn’t being paid – but I am grateful to be paid!

Natalie Loveless, Vicar at Rustington

Everyone reading this will have different family situations and circumstances can change... I find myself as a single parent to two teenage children and being a Vicar at the same time. The Diocese of Chichester, through their Clergy and Families Wellbeing, has supported my family by offering counselling support when we needed it the most. Within our churches and communities there are lots of families where parents are not together but sharing raising their children or where one is parenting on their own. As a priest it is possible, with careful diary management(!), to minister and care for a family. In fact, the ordination vows we make invite us to fashion our own life and household in the way of Christ. I love my children and I love my congregation, and often these two loves in my life enhance each other! 

Tim Gage, Vicar at West Blatchington

Sussex born and bred - growing up I struggled to know where I fitted in. However, I’ve always loved art and photography and after Uni I spent some time working as a Photographer. But as my Photographic skill grew so did my understanding and love of God. I initially thought that I was being called into teaching but soon it became clear that my desire was not to teach people how to take pictures, but how to come to know God personally through Jesus Christ. The Diocese of Chichester have been great in supporting me in my journey. From my early hesitant searching, through to encouraging me in my artistic work as part of my ministry. I’m delighted to work here with some great colleagues as we serve Christ and His people. And I’m excited to see how the Holy Spirit will work in this new and exciting time in our Diocese.

Victoria Larley, Licensed Reader at St Wilfrid, Chichester

I put off pursuing any form of ministry for such a long time. I felt myself unworthy of ministry, and it took a lot of encouragement from my incumbent, who helped me realise that I did have a lot of strengths to offer. I went from tentatively preaching a Holy Week sermon, to applying for Licensed Lay Ministry the next day. It was fifteen years in coming, but it in the end it happened so quickly. 

The selection process was a wonderful experience, full of encouragement and support, and the training has transformed me. During the pandemic, I have been responsible for live-streaming worship, and keeping our church connected via social media. I couldn’t have done that without the training and support I have had.

It’s a real team ministry at St. Wilfrid’s and I love the variety that Lay Readership offers, alongside my job as a music teacher.