James is a Gloucestershire man or a “Glostonian”. He was born near Gloucester, went to school in Gloucester, met Sarah, his wife, in Gloucester, worked in Gloucester, trained for the Ministry in Gloucester and now is a Team Vicar for Stroud Churches……… in Gloucestershire.
James left school at 15 and got an apprenticeship to become a tool maker with Donald Edwards Engineering Ltd. This was at a time when engineering in Gloucester was the main employer for the people of Gloucester from making train engines and carriages at Wagon Works to blades for Spitfire or parts for Concorde and F1 Grand Prix cars at Permali. He moved from the shop floor to working in a drawing room as “he valued his fingers….” He played and still plays keyboard in a group called Free Fall (More later)
But he lived through, witnessed and personally experienced the gradual decline of engineering in the 1990’s as the main employer for Gloucester people and the impact that decline had on the city, the local economy and local communities. Like many he can understand what it is to be made redundant or work in a company that is struggling and experience jobs and pay cuts.
But that experience was and is valuable in how he expresses his faith- how he relates and can listen to people who live ordinary lives and what that experience taught him and maybe what people are going through now.
He can thank Sarah, his wife, for what brought him to God and to later become a clergyman. In the early time of their courtship Sarah invited James to Sunday lunch with her parents but she did point out one condition: he would have to go to church with her family at St Barnabas. He did think at the time “this was a bit weird” He thereafter attended church off and on but in those days Sarah was the attraction, not God. He loved the Sunday lunch of Sarah’s mum but also the welcoming of the people at St Barnabas- something he has never forgotten- and…… he was intrigued.
When they got engaged, he felt he should be baptised so in one weekend- on the Saturday evening he was baptised and on the Sunday morning he was confirmed together with an 80 year old called Eric -who later became a Chelsea Pensioner.
A few months later he did an Alpha course that “blew my mind”. After the course he felt God was a very real presence in his life. James didn’t have all the answers, but he felt that the evidence suggested that God was willing to accept him, So James accepted God into his life… and life has never been the same again!
Ordination happened in 2017 and he was a self-supporting curate at Upton St Leonards whilst continuing to work in the drawing/design room for the engineering company , Eroga Ltd, in Gloucester. He had to study for a theology degree and he had a young family. As an ordained priest- preaching and leading worship on Sunday and then on the Monday designing at Eroga LTD – that experience of continuing to work taught him to understand in small ordinary ways, how God works in the world and is involved in everyday life. As an ordained man in the workplace James says he spent a lot of time listening and trying to understand the everyday challenges and anxieties of people as engineering went into decline.
As the new Team Vicar in Stroud James now holds a full-time ministry position within the team. Adjusting to this has been a challenge as the working day is so different from when James was working full-time in engineering. On his first Sunday with us James had a particularly busy, but enjoyable day. Once home he says he was tired, but also encouraged and uplifted by the welcome he had received from the communities he had visited. James said how he feels at home in Stroud and is looking forward to the future as the Team Vicar in the Stroud Team Ministry.
As a Manchester United fan (Editor note: sadly) he was delighted that Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions Final. He listens to electronic pop music such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream or Depeche Mode.
His two claims to fame are: his band is now called Free Fall, but they were once called Anastasia. They had had a couple of albums released but then received a letter from EMI telling them that due to copyright they had to change the name of the band because of the American solo singer Anastacia!
And secondly he went to a gig in Gloucester and the singer/songwriter, Ed Tempole Tudor was appearing. It was a small, intimate kind of gig, and the backing band hadn’t turned up so James did the backing music for a couple of numbers. Who is Ed Tenpole Tudor? He was once considered as a possible replacement for Jony Rotten in the Sex Pistols, he scored a major hit with a song called Swords of a Thousand Men in 1981, but found further fame as the presenter of The Crystal Maze on Channel 4.