About Me

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I was commissioned as a Church Army Officer in 2000, and spent 9 years working in parishes, mainly with children and families. In 2009, I began ordination training at Ripon College Cuddesdon. I married Clare in July 2000, and our first child, Nathan, arrived on September 22nd 2010.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Advent Sunday

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season, and also the beginning of the new Church Year. This morning, Clare & Nathan came with me to the Eucharist at my placement, Exeter College, and I will be going back this evening for Choral Evensong, which I expect to be hugely impressive, as always!

One tradition we have in our household is to light an Advent candle. I don't mean one like we often see in churches - the Advent wreaths which have 4 or more candles to count down the Sundays, but one in which we light it for a certain amount of time each day, until it burns away to the appropriate number. It's a simple, yet effective way of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, and is a great way to have a short quiet time together every day.

This year, Advent will be especially meaningful for us. Not only does it lead up to Nathan's first Christmas (not that he will know much about it!), but it is also my last Advent before ordination. This time next year we will be preparing for Christmas in a new home and new parish. Exciting times ahead, but in the meantime, we still our hearts and prepare for the coming of our Lord.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Reflections on Job

This week, I have been writing an essay with the title, "What solution, if any, does the book of Job give to the question of suffering".

It's an issue which has been around as long as humanity, and one which will never go away this side of the parousia (did you notice the technical word that slipped in there?!) There are many different interpretations of Job - some people say that the problem Job faced (and incidentally, he almost certainly wasn't a historical character, but a 'patriarchal hero' of a folktale, used by the author as the basis for the issue he wanted to explore) -the problem wasn't so much the suffering itself, dreadful as that was, but rather the apparent absence of God in the midst of it. That is why he called out so often to God to come and meet him, to give him an answer, because he needed the reassurance of God's presence in the midst of his devastation.

It has been especially poignant writing this essay now, as a couple of friends (who will obviously remain nameless) are going through some tough times at the moment, and I am left wondering how best to support them. Job's friends spent most of their time telling Job why he was suffering - and indeed, in ancient Israel, theodicy (the defence of God in the face of evil) was often seen as a solace to those in pain, enabling them to turn back to God and be restored. The problem in this case was that it wasn't what Job needed to hear at all.

In Job 13:5, he suggests, with some sarcasm, that the only wisdom his friends have is in their silence. There is great truth in that. What is often missed is that when the friends first arrived, they spent a week with Job sitting with him in his sorrow, without saying a  word.

That suggests to me the answer to how I can support those who are struggling. Often, it is simply a case of sitting with someone in their sorrow that is the greatest help, lending a listening ear, without trying to offer solutions. Yes, there is a time to speak, and at such times we must trust God for the right words to say. But sit in silence first.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

More academic results

I've had my results back for the two Long Essays I wrote over the summer, so here they are:

For my essay on the Reformation, I got a 2:1, so very happy with that. But for my essay on The Role of the Ordained Christian in the Workplace, I got a first!! Lots of different feelings going on - gobsmacked being high on the list! As I've said before, the degree is not the main reason that I'm here, but there is nothing wrong with being pleased about this achievement.

As long as I don't let it go to my head...but considering that I'm really struggling to get my head around a course I'm in the middle of called Pastoral Psychology, I don't think there's much danger of that!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

First smile!

A bit blurred, sadly, but we had our first genuine smile (ie. not wind-related!) today. Here it is!

Nathan's first smile!

Balancing time

Half-term started at lunchtime today (lasts until Monday teatime), and so this is a good opportunity to stop and reflect on the last 5 weeks.

The biggest challenge over this time has been getting the balance right with regards to use of time. It is so important to get this right now - not only for personal well-being, but also for the well-being of Clare & Nathan, and, in the future, to model an appropriate way of 'being' in a Christian community. So I have deliberately been keeping evenings completely work-free, in order to both have some quality family time, and also to give Clare some help, as she is, of course, looking after Nathan all day! (Although this is one of the great things about being in a community, as she is able to come to college for lunch every day, so we see each other for an hour then).

I know there will be some who disagree, but I believe the calling to be ordained is different from, not more important than, the call to be a husband and father. It's something which has concerned me in the past, as a Church Army officer - seeing some Christians (not just clergy) spending far more time engaged in 'churchy' activities than with their families.

This, to me, is simply wrong. I believe God has, for want of a better expression, a 'holistic approach' when he calls individuals. By that I mean that he calls the whole person, which includes everything about them, such as family, interests, previous experiences and so on. This doesn't mean that we stay as we are - more often than not there is transformation, renewal, growth and more. And there will be aspects of our lives that we are called to leave behind. But we remain, intrinsically, the person we were when "God formed us in the womb".

And so to the importance of getting the balance right. Or, more accurately, of not compartmentalising our essential personhood into different categories, but rather allowing our faith and our calling to permeate every aspect of our lives. If Christ is at the heart of our lives, we will find him at the heart of our relationships with others, at the heart of our work, at the heart of our leisure activities. And then the question of balance becomes a moot point, as the God who is interested in every aspect of our lives will prompt us whenever we start paying too much attention to any one at the expense of others.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Before the ending of the day

So last night, I led Compline for the second time since arriving at college. For those wondering, yes I did sing it! This is one of my goals for this year: to become more confident and competent in singing the offices - to that end, I intend to lead Compline at other points during the year, and have signed up to an optional group that will look at singing the liturgy of the Eucharist after Christmas. I have no illusions about becoming an 'expert' singer, but if I can reach the stage where I am at least competent, then I will be happy.

From that point of view, last night went well, I think. Two people who were there commented positively, so that is a good sign! I naturally sing it a little slower than most people - I suspect that is something to do with breath control - but that isn't wrong, simply different.

Compline itself is a lovely service, and one that I sadly don't get to as much as I would like. To quote the Church of England, it is above all a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day. At Cuddesdon, it marks the beginning of the 'Greater Silence', after which no one speaks until breakfast the following day. As a peaceful way of rounding off the day, it is something which I find immensely valuable.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

New year, new experiences

We're into the 3rd week proper of the new year, so time for an update on what this year holds.

Academically, I have to complete 4 more modules this year, each of which is assessed by long essay (6-7000 words). The modules I am doing are:
  1. Doctrine. The lectures are basically following the statements of the Creed, which in theory should be very interesting. Sadly, the two lectures we've had in Oxford so far have been singularly uninspiring. I know they are at undergraduate level, but it feels like they are pitched at 6th form level, if that. Fortunately, we have an excellent lecturer taking weekly seminars at college, so I think most of the learning will be happening there!
  2. Old Testament. There was a choice between Old & New, and I decided to go for this one simply because I know less about it! The set texts are 2 Samuel, 2 Kings, Job, and 10 of the Psalms, and, as with last year, we have to write an essay on each one.
  3. Christian Worship. This comes in 2 parts: Liturgy and the Sacraments - both very important for the future! For my long essay, I've decided to explore the use of vestments in worship - not something which everyone in the Church of England agrees about!
  4. Mission & Ministry. This covers various aspects of mission & ministry, including pastoral care, and my long essay will be a detailed theological reflection based on the summer placement at Dorchester Abbey
My placement this year is at Exeter College, with the Chaplain. There are Sunday morning and evening services, as well as midweek evensongs and a Friday lunchtime discussion group. It is going to be very challenging being with lots of highly intelligent students and academics!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Becoming a father

Nathan Routledge
The above little miracle arrived nearly a week ago, and, whilst we knew very well that it would be life-changing, there's a difference between knowing it and experiencing it! All of a sudden, mine and Clare's lives revolve around the newest member of the family. It is very tiring(!) but we wouldn't have it any other way!

The hospital experience was long. Clare went in to be induced last Sunday, but we spent all day Monday waiting for a bed to become free in the Delivery Suite...it never came. So things didn't start properly until Tuesday. I have never been as proud of Clare as I was during the 14 hours of labour she went through - you'd never have thought it was her first baby, so calm and collected she was. This is her within half an hour of the birth:
So Nathan John Roger has entered our lives! His middle names are in honour of his two grandfathers; whilst Nathan has been his chosen name for a long time! It's a name which Clare chose, and I am very happy with - and has the wonderful meaning, "gift from God". After the epic journey it has taken us to get here, I cannot think of a more appropriate name - he truly is a gift as well as a miracle.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Nathan is here!

Very brief update as the last week has kind of passed by in a whirl!

Nathan Routledge arrived safely on Wednesday 22nd September, 13 days late! 8lb 3oz, so a nice healthy weight. Clare was amazing - I am one proud husband and dad!

A longer post will follow, but right now I am just too tired! (But happy!!)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Prospective fatherhood

Well, this is it! If nothing happens in the next 24 hours, Clare will be off to the hospital tomorrow afternoon to begin the induction process. In less than 48 hours, baby will be here, and we will be parents!

Of all the things that have happened in my life over 37 years, this is both the most exciting and the most daunting. Becoming parents is something we've longed for for so long, and now it is almost here, I am literally giddy with anticipation and a huge sense of responsibility. The awesomeness of what is about to happen is hitting us both - and, whilst we cannot wait to meet our little miracle, we're very aware that we are about to embark on a huge adventure which we feel pretty unprepared for! The antenatal classes have been great - but that was all theory - we're about to find out that babies don't follow any standard pattern!

Keep an eye open for pictures on the blog! They should be here in a few days!

Monday, 13 September 2010


We're still waiting for this baby to decide that he/she wants to leave the comfort of the womb, so in the meantime, how about some curacy news?

The news is that we know where we will be going next year! It has been announced in the parish, so I am now free to tell people: I will be curate in the Ebbsfleet Team Ministry, which is the parishes of Northfleet & Rosherville.

Clare & I went to visit a few weeks ago, and met the Team Rector and a few people from the churches and community. Lawrence (the Rector) seems like he will be a great colleague to work with, and the community, whilst fairly needy in places, has a good feel to it. The day we visited was a fun day organised by and for a particular street, with the church being involved, and there was a great atmosphere about the place. Everyone we met was enthusiastic about the possibility of us going there, which was nice and affirming! We will be making another visit at some point this autumn.

With everything else happening, it is really good to know where we will be going next year. There are details to be sorted out, of course, but it leaves me free to focus on the new college year, as well as being a dad, without having to take lots of trips back to Rochester Diocese.

There's only a few of us who are leaving next year who have our curacies sorted, so please pray for everyone who is still looking, especially those who are being released by their sending Dioceses.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The waiting time

The last few days have been kind of strange. I feel very much in an 'in-between' time.

With all the work done, including tweaking the essays after tutor comments, I now feel as ready as I'll ever be for baby's arrival. But baby isn't here yet! And, with Clare showing no signs of going into labour whatsoever, I'll be surprised if baby does make an appearance on the due date (Thursday).

So it's a time of waiting. A time for patience. And a time to enjoy being a couple while we have the chance!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Work done, baby imminent!

Phew! Time to end the silence of the last few months, as today I finished my second Long Essay, just in time for baby's arrival!

The last few weeks have been pretty much full of activity either baby or essay related! We've been getting the nursery ready and going to antenatal classes, as well as the regular trips to see the midwife and consultant. Clare is now less than a week from her due date (9th September), and looking very good! At the last midwife appointment (Tuesday), we found out that baby was 3/5 engaged, so things really could happen at any moment!

As I mentioned above, both Long Essays are done. They will need a little tweaking, once the tutors have cast their eye over them, but I feel good enough about them that I could hand them in as they are, if necessary. As with the exams, I'm not expecting to get a First for either of them; as long as they are good enough to pass, that's the important thing. More importantly, the reading and writing of them has where the real learning has been for me.

There are 3 weeks until term begins now, so, assuming baby arrives on time, we will have a couple of weeks together before I get back into college life. It's kind of weird being a 2nd year, meeting all the new arrivals, but fun too!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Update for the last two months

So, the last time I got round to updating this, I was talking about the exams I was sitting. That seems a long time ago! The results came out recently, and I was very pleased to achieve what I hoped for - a pair of 2:1 results. (Actual scores were 66% in OT and 68% in NT).

Since the exams, there have been lots of other things happening, as you'd expect! Rest of term was a mixture of Themed Study Weeks (one on Death, Dying & Bereavement and one on Communication), as well as a number of one-off days on various other topics, including race awareness and healing/the paranormal. Alongside that, I have been working on my long essays, which I want to have done by the end of August.

Not much time for them at the moment, though, as I have been on placement for the last three weeks. I am at Dorchester Abbey, just down the road from Cuddesdon, and I asked to go there to get experience of what it is like in a team ministry. Dorchester is one parish within a benefice of many (mostly village communities), with a team of 3 stipendiary clergy, 2 curates and many other licensed ministers (some clergy, some lay). It has been a fascinating experience of seeing how a multi-parish benefice works - now I just have to write it up!

And one other thing has happened - we've moved! Although we have really enjoyed being in the cottage, it simply wasn't big enough for the imminent arrival of baby Routledge (less than 2 months to go!) So we are now in one of the 2-bedroom flats on-site - which feels very spacious after the cosiness of the cottage!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

NT Exam

With this morning's effort out of the way, the exams are over, so I can concentrate on getting the other essays done, as well as continuing to be formed for the priesthood!

Today's exam was much the same as yesterday in format, although it did include some Greek translation, which went fine, thankfully! Essay topics were the christology of Matthew's Gospel and the contribution that the social sciences make to interpreting 1 Corinthians. Both fascinating subjects!

No more work today - need a bit of a rest after all the revision, so it was nice to head to the pub for lunch with fellow ordinands! Also looking forward to the Eucharist this evening.

Monday, 3 May 2010

OT Exam today

I had the first of my two exams this morning: 3 hours on the Old Testament.

Went reasonably well, I think, but am so glad I did the mock last week! It helped me to get my timings right, so I was able to pace myself pretty much perfectly, with 5 minutes at the end to go back and finish an earlier question!

There were 4 'gobbets' in the exam (short passages of scripture which have to be commented on - with regards to history, literary and theological insights). I did the two from Genesis and two from Second Isaiah.

The two essays were interesting - not quite as expected, but fairly easy to adapt the mock essays to. One was on whether or not it is adequate to describe Genesis 1-11 as "monotheistic myth", in its Ancient Near East context - an opportunity to talk about things like the Creation and Flood narratives in comparison with those in (for example) the Mesopotamian narratives of Atrahasis & Gilgamesh.
The other essay was about the 'servant' figure in Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), and whether or not the fact that he is 'anonymous' is significant.

As I say, it went fairly well on the whole - I'm sure I've passed, at any rate, which is all I need to do.

Time now to replace the OT theology with NT, ready for exam 2 tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Exam time!

So the new term has started, we're 3 days into it, and the holiday revision is starting to bear fruit!

I have two exams next week - one in Old Testament, and one in New Testament, and to help us prepare for it, college has put on two optional mocks this week. I've taken them both, mainly to make sure I get my timings right. I spent a bit too much time on the first half of the OT mock, but managed to correct it on the NT paper, and even got all the Greek translation done!

So there are a few more days to go over anything which needs consolidating...this time next week, exams are over, and the long essays can begin!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

End of term!

So we've come to the end of Hilary Term - one third of the way through my training already! This has been a ridiculously busy term, with lots of essays, supporting pieces, formational stuff and more! Some of the highlights:


Working with members of my College Group to put together a Creative Eucharist was an excellent experience. We had some differences of opinion during the process - inevitable when the group is full of leaders - but it was a valuable learning experience and resulted in a service which flowed very smoothly and enabled a lot of people to meet with God.

Another highlight happened two days later, when a member of our group (not me!) performed some highly entertaining tricks with a thurible during the service commemorating Edward King, a principal of Cuddesdon over 100 years ago.


Both placements this term have been good, especially the opportunity to preach at St. Barnabas. I will also be acolyting there on Easter Sunday, which will be exciting! The Steppin Stone placement is nearly at an end - one Thursday to go - and I will be sorry to finish there. It has been so important in keeping my training grounded in the realities of ministry.


Best course of the term has been Reformation - a huge gap in my knowledge up until now, but not any more! I have two supporting pieces to do on this over the holiday - have already started the first one, on the reason Erasmus & Luther disagreed over free will. Fascinating stuff!

College Life

I am officially part of the new Kids Church Leadership Team - a colleague and I led the last one of term Wednesday just gone. It is nice to be back involved with this!

I am also continuing as Assistant Social Club Treasurer for the next year - the guy who gets to tell everyone how much they've been spending at the bar!

Easter Holidays

We're going to be back and forth over the holidays, with me having the two essays to write, as well as revision for exams (first week in May). But there is a wedding at St. Mark's to look forward to, as well as experiencing how St. Barnabas 'do Holy Week'. And we will be visiting family at various times as well. Then it will be back for a new term, and getting ready to say goodbye to those who will be leaving college in June - which will signal one year left for us here!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Church Army news

Some big news from this term is that I have written to Church Army to resign my commission as a CA Evangelist.

This is a decision that has taken much thought and prayer in reaching. The seeds were sown in the first week of training here at Cuddesdon, when I distinctly felt God challenge me over the fact that I had basically not put any thought into the matter whatsoever. (That was because there is no requirement to resign until ordination itself, which, of course, was 2 years away at that stage).

I therefore spent a lot of time reflecting on that, as well as speaking with my spiritual director, another CA person here at college, and one or two other people, before reaching my decision.

There were a number of reasons why I came to the decision to resign, the most important of which is to do with my formation as an ordained priest. I felt that, the longer I remained a commissioned CA Officer, the more it was getting in the way of my formation as a priest. God, after all, is calling me away from licensed lay ministry into ordained ministry.

This is not a case of one being better than the other, simply of there being a distinct difference. I am also not going to stop being an evangelist! Again, it is a calling to something different, of which evangelism is a part. The 12 years with Church Army have been immensely valuable, both in terms of God preparing me for this stage of my life, and, I hope, in being of some use during that time to others!

It was a very strange feeling both writing the letter, and then posting it. There was most definitely a sense of sorrow, but also a sense of release, if that makes sense, in that I am no longer holding onto something which God is calling me to let go of.

Making this decision has given me this period of Lent to reflect upon it and let go, with the promise of Easter and 'new birth' to look forward to!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Preaching tomorrow!

So I'm preaching at my placement church tomorrow (St. Barnabas) - the first time I will have preached since we moved last August. We don't have to preach in our first year, but I didn't want to go a whole year without having preached, so I'm grateful for the opportunity.

It's an interesting sermon to have prepared, because St. Barnabas use the Roman lectionary, rather than Common Worship, which means that tomorrow's Gospel reading is Luke's version of the Transfiguration. (In Common Worship, it comes just before Lent). So it's been interestign seeing why the Roman lectionary has it during Lent.

Basically, it's because, during Lent, Christians are called to participate in "the Paschal Transfiguration of Christ". Now, this phrase is a new one on me, so I had to do some research to find out what it meant! And I found this from a sermon by Fr. Jan Rokosz (a Polish Roman Catholic priest):

A paschal transfiguration occurs in the life of a Christian immersed in Christ. It awakens life in places where there is death, power – where there is weakness, joy – where there is suffering, forgiveness – where there is abuse, good – where there is evil, love – where there is hatred, and resurrection – where there is the cross. And all this happens, thanks to the love, power, and wisdom of God, which are continuously revealed to us through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Community of the Church and for her strengthening, and ultimately – for our everlasting good.

I think that says it all! And so I am incorporating that quote into the sermon tomorrow!

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Eucharist

Interesting experience this week, during Creative Worship (which happens every Monday evening, led by one of the College Groups).

During the worship, the Reserved Sacrament was placed on the altar in church, as a symbol of Christ's presentation at the temple, and some members of the college community knelt before it.

Now, I have no problem with people doing that if it is part of their spirituality - it's not mine, but God has made us to be different, and that includes how we connect with him in worship. It's one of the great things about the Anglican Church - its breadth - and one of the reasons I chose Cuddesdon to train at.

The interesting thing for me is that it has challenged me to think about what happens at the Eucharist, when the bread and wine is consecrated. I don't believe that the bread and wine literally become Christ's Body & Blood, but I find it difficult to articulate what I do actually believe happens. I believe that I am meeting with God in some way, taking part in an 'active memorial' of the Last Supper, but I struggle to say any more than that, really.

In a way, it doesn't matter too much, except that it is likely that future parishioners will want to talk about this with me, so it is something that I do need to reflect on over my time here. The good thing is that there will be plenty of opportunity to do so, what with learning about the Reformation this term (in which the nature of the Eucharist is a significant feature), and a whole week on the Sacraments in December of this year.

God continues to challenge!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Faith and Work

Despite the relentless snowy weather - which is making it very difficult to get in and out of Cuddesdon - the new term is underway with a Themed Study Week. Unlike the week which ended last term, this week has a variety of options for us to choose from; I am doing a week on Faith & Work.

I asked to do this because there are so many aspects to this course which are relevant to future parish ministry. Surveys are regularly conducted which show that many Christians struggle to make connections between their faith and daily life, and received little help from their local church in this area. And yet, for those in our congregations who do work, they will on the whole be spending more waking time at work than at home in a typical week. And so I believe that this has to be a key area in which the parish priest supports the congregation in his or her care. There are also, of course, issues around unemployment, retirement, etc.

So far this week, we have had some introductory thoughts, followed by a trip to one of the big Investment Banks in Canary Wharf yesterday. We met a number of key personnel - some of whom are Christians and some of whom are not - along with the Chaplain to Canary Wharf. It was a very interesting day, particularly in understanding more about the banking industry, the pressures that people who work in that atmosphere have to deal with, and in visiting the homogeneous, impersonal trading floor.

Then today we have been doing some theological reflection on our time there. Still to come, we will be looking at how Christian Theology of Work has developed over the years, and then thinking about specific ways in which pastors can support Christians at work.

It would have been nice to visit somewhere very different as well - banking, of course, is very different to healthcare, which is different to education, which is different to manufacturing, etc - but this week has been excellent so far. And it has been a great way to kick off the new term, before going back into the normal timetable next week.