Dear Readers

Jeff asked me if I would introduce myself and dispel the myth that new vicars appear from nowhere as if by magic! So here goes. Hello I’m Ralph your new curate.

I had always assumed that
potential vicars were holy people who grew up with the knowledge from a very early age that they had been called by God. Well I can’t speak for the rest of my colleagues but my story is nothing like that at all. Far from a confident assured path I think God has pushed me kicking and screaming every step of the way. I have just been studying the book of Judges for my final exams and developed a great affinity with Gideon. Having been called by God he first argues over his suitability and then asked for many signs of conformation before finally proceeding.

I grew up in a village just outside Chester, but had very little to do with the Church which seemed a rather distant irrelevant institution. Then when I was 17 I was asked by a group of friends to a young people's group run by the church. I went at first because I enjoyed the company of the group and the activities they got up to. Gradually however rather than simply enduring the bible study section of the meeting it began to hold my interest.

I then went of to Wye College in Kent to Study Environmental Science and encouraged by my experience of the Church teenage group attended the first meeting of the Christian Fellowship. It was at this meeting that I believe God really opened my eyes. I don’t think there was anything particularly special about the meeting but for the first time I was struck by the genuineness of people's worship and prayers to God that forced me to re-evaluate my own lack of belief. I became a Christian a few weeks later by saying a simple prayer with a friend, asking for God’s forgiveness for ignoring him and welcoming him into my life. I don’t know what I was expecting. Choirs of angels? Trumpet fanfares? But nothing like that happened, I do remember however a tremendous feeling of release and annoying my very patient friends by over excitedly talking about God at every opportunity!

From University I went on to do a year in Bible College to learn something of the bible. I then returned to Chester to take up a Job with Cheshire County Council. While in Chester I attended my local parish church to train as a reader and help with 15 – 18 yr old youth work which I very much enjoyed. In recent years I have worked as an Environmental Scientist for Waste Recycling Group plc the North West of England and can bore to death anybody foolish enough to ask me on the intricacies of Industrial composting! To relax I am a keen fell walker and regularly disappear to Scotland to recharge the batteries. I also enjoy reading, the theatre and more recently have taken up digital photography.

I put myself forward to the selection procedure for training for ordained ministry out of obedience to what I thought God was saying. Nobody was more surprised than me when I was accepted. I have spent the last three years training in Ridley Hall, a Church of England training college in Cambridge.
I am delighted to take up the role as Curate of Astbury and Smallwood and look forward to getting to know many of you. While I am here I will also be continuing my studies in Manchester University which I am also looking forward to.

Looking back I think what is most surprising about God’s calling is the way I have been gently led forward though all this. If you had told me ten years ago I would be a Curate today I would have thought you were joking. But God doesn’t ask us to do that sort of leap, instead he asks us to follow him with small manageable steps. We do this in God’s strength not our own however there is a sense in which we do need to take that step forward for ourselves, to experience God holding us. During one of our Morning Prayer times Jeff and I were struck by the bible reading of the day from the book of Joshua. God’s promise to Joshua in ch1 verse3 was: ‘…every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you…’ In other words although God had given him the land Joshua still had to take the step forward to see this!

Can I take this opportunity to thank you all for the marvellous welcome I have received and to apologise in advance for my total inability to remember anybody’s name until I have been told far too many times. As I step forward into what I am sure will be a steep learning curve as a Curate can I ask for your patience and leave you with a challenge. Perhaps I could encourage you to consider if God might be asking you to take another step forward in faith with him into what ever or where ever he is leading you.

Yours in Christ Ralph Kemp


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