As he begins his ministry with us, here is a little more information from Mark himself.
"I am a Suffolk lad, having been born in Ipswich to parents who were living in Hadleigh at the time, and I am the eldest of 5. My early years were spent all around the country as my fathers job meant that we moved every couple of years, but eventually we settled back to Suffolk living in Sudbury, so I know this part of the world reasonably well.
I didn’t come from a particularly religious family, my grandmother was a Methodist and I attended a Catholic Prep School, but that was about the extend of my knowledge of Christianity. I did enjoy singing and that eventually led me to assist at my local church where I sang for weddings to boost the choir numbers – back then I was give a £1 a wedding and we could often have 3 or 4 weddings each Saturday during the summer – so given the choice of singing or getting up a having a paper round the singing one out! After some time, I was invited to also sing on Sunday mornings (although that only paid 50p) but it was there that I began my personal faith journey, and was fortunate to have some adults who were willing to listen and to answer the questions of an enquiring teenager.
Around the age of 13 or 14 I began to have a sense that God was calling me to be a Priest, however, I ruled that out for as far as I was concerned Priests were “near saintly, good and holy people” and that wasn’t how I saw myself (and still don’t!) – so as a result I avoided a growing sense of vocation until my mid-thirties, by which point I was enjoying a good career as a Commercial Property and Liability Underwriter in the City, a job which eventually found me setting up, training and leading a team in India, a job which I thoroughly loved and one which found me spending a lot of time living and working there and one which influences my understanding of God and his love for all creation to this day. It is also a country which I still return to as often as life and finances permit, and one to which in my spare time (and when COVID isn’t around) I regularly lead both faith and discovery tours, in the same way as I also lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
After much running away, I eventually offered myself for Ordination and was selected. This meant giving up a successful and lucrative career and going back to being a full-time mature student. I trained for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon on the outskirts of Oxford, where at the same time I had the privilege of Reading Theology at the University of Oxford.
Having spent most of my adult life trying to get away from Suffolk, after College I was invited to accept a curacy back in Suffolk, indeed just a few miles down the road from where I used to live. So for the next two and half years I became the first full time curate to Lavenham and Preston St Mary for many years and was grateful for the support and opportunities to learn and to experiment as I learned, I sincerely hope, to be a good pastoral priest.
At the end of my curacy I was encouraged to apply for the Stoke by Nayland Benefice where I have been for close to five years, nurturing and encouraging what was two separate benefices of five separate and distinct churches, to come together as one, recognising the uniqueness of each place, sharing gifts and talents, reaching out to the wider community, nurturing disciples and encouraging lay ministry in many shapes and forms.
As I join the Stour Valley Benefice, I am both excited and nervous about what God has in store for all of us as we continue to respond to his call on our lives and as we are guided by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus known to all who will open their hearts to him.
I would ask that you hold me in your prayers, just as I will be holding you all, and I look forward to meeting and getting to know you all in the weeks and months to come.
God Bless and stay safe and well.