Name- Rachael Phillips
Job- Generous Giving Project Officer.
Home- Born and raised in Darlington. Studied at Teesside University and Durham University (so I’m a proper northerner).
Faith- Fairly new Christian. My conversion happened in Afghanistan.
Credentials- Before this job I spent 13 years serving in the British Army, as a Royal Engineers Officer, but most of my career was in non-engineering roles. In Afghanistan, Bosnia, Denmark, Austria and the UK, I was mostly employed in community support type roles. I’m also a linguist…
I love to chat, and luckily in the Army I got the chance to do lots of it. Talking with and listening to the ordinary people who lived near the military bases in which I’ve served, was part of my job. I’ve acted as a mediator, negotiator, sign poster, meetings organiser, project planner, bridge builder -metaphorically and literally- communications facilitator and even interpreter (I speak Pashto, Bosnian/ Croatian/ Serbian/ Montenegrin, French, German and Spanish).
In Afghanistan I patrolled out to villages with the infantry soldiers to meet with locals elders, such as teachers, police officers, religious leaders and elected councillors. I talked to them about the security mission of the British Army and I listened to their opinions and hopes and concerns, and fed this back to my commanders so they had a better picture of the communities we were working with.
The job involved lots of cups of tea, sharing stories and meeting some fascinating and diverse people. It turns out, this job isn’t so very different! But instead of talking about the security mission, we’re talking about Jesus Christ’s mission. It’s also a lot less dangerous!
Faith-wise, it’s all rather new. I had no interest in or even belief in God when I became an adult, despite having been baptised and taken to Sunday School as a child. So it was a surprise to meet God in Afghanistan and to become a Christian there.
Even though for most of my adult life, I’d lived in religious communities abroad, and had been surrounded by faithful Muslims, living out their religion in all aspects of their daily routine, I was never inspired to question who God might be to me, until a completely out of the blue experience in a shipping container in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The full story can be found here (I’ve written other stuff about being new to faith, the church and trying to understand my calling on my personal blog here), but suffice to say, having my eyes opened to the wonder of God…well it was a bit of a shock!
My faith has grown daily since that experience, and later, on the night when I came to be confirmed, I felt I heard clearly that God was calling me to something specific. Since then I have been exploring if this might be Ordained Ministry. To try and work this out, I left my job in the Army and returned home to the North East to study theology at Cranmer Hall, Durham University, for a year, alongside people who are training to be ordained ministers. And then I got this job, which puts me right in at the deep end, exactly where I like to be!
I hope to bring all that I’ve experienced and learned to this role (making the most of my project management and people skills, but not really drawing too much from my combat skills!), to encourage and inspire my fellow Christians in the Diocese. I am learning more about the Church and God every single day and am very excited to be doing this whilst serving you, and You.
Name- Reverend Tom Brazier
Job- Rector of Greenside Parish
Home- Speaks with a South African accent but is British by birth. Eats both biltong and corned beef hash.
Faith- Ordained Minister so lots of faith.
Credentials- Writing about anything related to Christian faith can be a real minefield because Christians hold so many different views. The author of these articles is still a fairly new Christian and mistakes can easily be made. [Ed: just the odd little one here and there – but my lips are sealed.] Rev. Tom Brazier was brought on board to check that the first article was theologically sound and heresy free and we haven’t been able to get rid of him since. [Ed: reword last phrase, please.] Tom was also part of the conception of the Generous Giving Project, which differs quite significantly from a traditional stewardship advisor’s role…
Being the editor gives Tom free reign [Ed: “free rein”] to be a huge grammar pedant [Ed: it’s not just grammar, I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades pedant], a character trait that is suppressed in ordinary pastoral life. Tom enjoys the challenge of receiving the unpolished musings of his protégé, and carefully deleting bits and suggesting amendments so as to craft them into palatable articles for the wider audience.
Tom is passionate about church giving because, he says, “giving is so closely linked to spiritual health and I love to see churches flourishing.” He also loves the idea of being part of something much bigger than ourselves and bigger than our local church.
Tom was ordained in 2012 after training at Cranmer Hall, and served his curacy at Holy Trinity Washington. Before Tom wore a dog collar he had a very different life. He grew up in South Africa, and after studying science at university, he worked as a software engineer developing training simulators to help train the cavalry to operate tanks. [Ed: which swords I now would like to see repurposed as ploughshares. We also developed simulators for gigantic mining vehicles.]
After marrying Julie, the pair decided to take a few years out and to do some travelling, before returning home and getting on with their lives, but this short trip to Europe turned into a much longer trip indeed. Tom got a series of jobs working in London for a failing dotcom company, a not-failing investment bank and a motion picture special effects company. Using his extensive analytical skills honed in the simulator development industry, Tom lived and worked in London for 9 years, worshipping at St Simon’s in Shepherd’s Bush before the calling to ordained ministry became one he couldn’t ignore. [Ed: good word “honed” – make a note to use it again somewhere.]
Whilst training in Durham, he fell in love with the North East and decided to stay, which is just as well, as otherwise the communities of Greenside Parish would be without their vicar and the Generous Giving Project would churn out all kinds of nonsense. [Ed: again, my lips are sealed.]
Name- Ross Meikle
Job- Ordinand at Cranmer Hall, soon to be Curate of Witney Parish, Oxford Diocese