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Diocesan Ministry Experience Scheme: A Journey to Ordination

Josh Peckett is preparing for ordination on 3 July. Josh shares with us his faith story, experience on the Diocese in Europe Ministry Experience Scheme and his journey to ordination.

Josh grew up in and around Leeds and although his family weren’t religious, he went to a Methodist school. “It was partly the school’s influence that began a journey of questioning which led me to Christian faith. In this environment, and as a teenager asking questions about my identity, I began questioning various tenets of Christianity that I had taken for granted, and thinking hard about what I believed and what Christian faith meant,” says Josh.

“This continued for a few years until I finished secondary school, and I found that no matter how hard I tried to disbelieve, I felt an unmovable rock at my core that kept saying to me that I believe in God. I had a sense of increasingly being pulled towards the Church and I knew I wanted to be confirmed. One evening I remember a strong feeling of the presence of God, and assurance that this was the next step of the path.”

Shortly afterwards, Josh started going to St Margaret’s, his local Anglo-Catholic parish church where he began to learn more and be discipled in the Christian faith. “In part it was the beautiful, often mysterious, worship style that first drew me to this church. The emphasis on sacramental worship, choral music and the ‘beauty of holiness’ spoke powerfully of both the transcendence of God and the immanence of his relationship with us, and therefore with me,” says Josh. “In a busy, technological, rationalist world, it pointed toward a relationship with God and creation that is not collapsible to only what we can see, touch, or even exploit as human beings.”

Josh read Classics at Durham University and after graduating, he applied for the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Scheme in the Diocese in Europe. “I was still early on in my vocations process and university had been formative in understanding my own calling. When I finished, I wanted to do something practical in terms of discerning vocation. That’s why the move to Brussels was so important!”  Why opt for the Diocese in Europe scheme? Josh tells us this was due to his “fascination of ‘What does the Church of England look like, when you take it out of England?’… “I was intrigued what ministry looks like in this vast number of locations and cultures.”

Josh completed his 10 month placement based at Holy Trinity Pro Cathedral, Brussels (pictured above). For Josh, Brussels had more of a feeling of a gathered church, whereas his experience in England had mostly been in parish churches, and people were coming to find other English speaking people. Add to these the sheer number of younger churchgoers. Josh explains:

“There is a very large contingent among the congregation of young professionals who work in the European Union Institutions so there was more exposure to young people in church”. “Amongst all the activity there, the significant thing was that it helped me gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and outworking of ministry in our Church, in its surprises, mundanities, and eccentricities.”

Josh has particularly cherished memories of the Anglican/Old Catholic Youth Pilgrimage to Echternach in Luxembourg which you can read about on Bishop Robert's blog.

“The sheer level of enthusiasm and optimism in this group of people who were all under the age of 30 was deeply encouraging. Experiences like that were very important in feeding a sense of hope, a Christian hope, that there is light and there is a future. We don’t know what it looks like, but we trust in God that the Spirit will lead us to it. “I think there was a lesson in treasuring the friendships and relationships we have locally, globally and ecumenically. We have so much in common even though we come from everywhere, from  Ireland to Latvia.”

The MES also involves its participants in the practicalities of Church life. Josh led and helped with services, theological education and discussion, was involved in the Chapel for Europe in Brussels, readings, as well as attending Archdeaconry synods and Diocesan synod. “It was really helpful for me to have the opportunity to do the nitty gritty; as a church-goer I only saw the end-product of what clergy and lay leaders do. For me to gain experience in that was really important in confirming that this was something I wanted to do, this was my sense of vocation, and I had a practical desire to do it,” Josh reflects.

We asked Josh about what the Diocese in Europe has to offer the Church of England in England:

“Being part of a church which is very consciously not in the majority, that has to work out what is important, what to fight for, what to give thanks for, and discern how to respond to situations in its host country, sometimes as guests or outsiders and other times as valued citizens. There are also more opportunities to explore what Anglicanism means today and how it’s been tied up with Englishness… I think some of this wisdom from the Diocese in Europe could be welcome in England, where the Church is having to reckon with a new realization of ‘being small’ whilst still having a powerful voice.”

Josh completed his MES placement, and was recommended for ordination training by a Bishop’s Advisory Panel. Josh began his studies at Westcott House, Cambridge in September 2018. He has now completed a Bachelor of Theology for Ministry (BTh) and is now reading for a Postgraduate Diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission. Josh is now making final preparations for his ordination as deacon on 3 July at Ripon Cathedral, before taking up his post as Assistant Curate for The Headingley and All Hallows Team Ministry in the Diocese of Leeds.

Across his three future parish churches, there are tens of thousands of students. There is also a café ministry called “rainbow junction” – a community and outreach café providing food. “The vicar has a significant role in inter-faith relationships and has wonderful relationships with other religious groups in the area, which I am looking forward to getting involved with. There is a lot of opportunity for engagement with the community and different styles of worship. So, I think it’s going to be quite a lively curacy going forward to all three churches” says Josh.

We wish Josh every success in his future ministry.

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You can find out more about the Ministry Experience Scheme here and reflections by the Diocese in Europe MES cohort this year in e-News coming out next week. 

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Story: Jamie Ellis, Damian Thwaites