Some of you may know me well enough to know everything I am about to say, some of you may know a little bit and some of you may very well have no idea who I am and why you’ve decided to read this. Regardless of which camp you find yourself I bid you a hearty and warm hello!
I want to take you back, back to the summer of 2016. A young seventeen-year-old Sam is starting to think about what he might want to do with his life. Now at face value this seems like a fairly simple task; find something you like doing, study it at university and then get a job in that area. To quote a certain Russian meerkat, “Simples”. It should have been simple right? Wrong. By this point in my waning school career I had very little idea, diddly squat, nyet, nothing. And to rub salt in the proverbial wound, I spent the majority of my time answering well meaning questions like, “So what are you going to do when you leave sixth form?” Now I don’t think I would have been popular if I had responded in light of the deep sense of frustration I felt. So, instead I answered with what I thought was a carefully executed non-committal yet reassuringly in control, “I’ll figure it out.” In reality I think it just sounded non-committal. Up until this point I had wanted to be all of the following… A Chef, a police officer, a teacher, in the RAF, a Chef again and then I thought about studying for a history degree.
So, it’s the summer of 2016 and I, like always, am spending two weeks in Shepton Mallett serving on the Our Place team at New Wine.
(Can we please hold a few moments silence to remember New Wine at Shepton, aaahhh the good old days.)
Anyway, I digress. I loved serving at New Wine it was probably my best two weeks of the year if I’m honest. I had been serving on the additional needs support team for a few years and loved that even more, although at this point I didn’t realise that God can show his calling on your life through things that you are passionate for. And anyway, a cheeky mid teen non-lactose intolerant Sam would have pointed out that he was quite passionate about cheesecake so why couldn’t that be my calling.
So, like normal, I served on team. It was a fairly standard year at New Wine, bringing with it a bizarre mix of driving rain and blistering sunshine. Little did I know that this would be one the most significant 2 weeks of my life.
To cut a long story short, throughout the course of the two-week conference four different people approached me at different words prompting me to work in the context of what I was doing at New Wine. I don’t know if you have ever felt God prompting you to do something, at this point I had never really experienced it and for a first time I don’t think it really gets any clearer than it was for me!
So, with a spring in my step I went and spoke to one Emily Duffy to ask her about the New Wine discipleship year. So fast forward to the summer of 2017, I am packing my bags and moving my inconveniently broken leg down to the sunny seaside town of Poole, Dorset. Now slightly naively I believed that after my clear prompting into ministry this was the beginning to a long and illustrious career in ministry that ultimately lead to me becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, or even the Pope. Now I will never become the Pope and I probably will never become the Archbishop but what I realised during my time doing the internship is everything we do is ministry, ministry is anything where you are sharing the love of Jesus and the salvation he offers.
I’m going to fast forward a little bit to the autumn of 2018. I had just began studying for my degree in theology at Moorlands theological college, and if I’m honest that is so far from where I thought I would be two years previously. I mean…. Who on earth is passionate about theology?! Apparently, me.
Over the course of the next year or so I began to further realise the calling I believe God has on my life. During this time, I had continued to serve and lead within the Our Place team at New Wine and had developed and launched the Our Space accessible church ministry at SML (no points for guessing where the name came from). The more work and experience that I got within the context of additional needs support the more I realised that my calling may be more in the sphere of SEN work and less in the sphere of ministry. This realisation was a significant one for me, I want to caveat this by saying I love working in church and have learned so much from my mentors at SML. I have learned from the best what it means to lead effectively and with integrity; I have learnt from the best what it means to engage children in the own spiritual journeys and I have learnt from the best what it means to lead worship authentically and humbly. Although I clearly still have an exceptionally long way to go in all these areas!
Now reading this you may be thinking, “By Gosh, Sam is going to be the Archbishop”, I kid of course there’s no chance. But in all seriousness for a long time I genuinely thought I would end up working in ministry, as a kid’s pastor who was passionate for making church accessible and inclusive. In fact, what I was realising instead was my calling lies outside the church within the area of additional needs support.
If you are still here, I appreciate you sticking around! We are almost at the end.
Now all of that leads us to the present day, I am now almost at the end of my second year studying theology and I still love it! I think I almost love it more as I begin to think less about how all of this is applicable in what I do within the church, but instead in all the things I may possibly do outside of it.
So, I guess some of you may wondering where this meandering and at times painful narrative has led me? Well as I approach the end of my degree in just over a year, I am looking to go and study for a master’s degree to qualify as an occupational therapist with the view to go on and work with children with additional needs. Now, this is a pretty big shift from where I was almost 5 years ago. God has done a lot in me in that interceding time. Everything I have done in my time at SML has prepared me and shaped to be the person I am now and when I look back at the person I was when I first arrive, I cringe very very deeply.
The reason that I have subjected you to a large portion of my life story is because we thought it would be cool to share why and how we got to be at SML, so you guys could get to us a little better and understand a little better why we are doing what we do! I hope enjoyed getting to know us a little better, I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you!