There persists a certain curiosity about clergy with some fixed stereotypes about what kind of people we are or should be. The language, structure and culture of ‘Church’ remains persistently inaccessible and sometimes just incomprehensible.
Matt Woodcock is a wise, honest, amusing and candid writer who puts all of his journalistic experience to work in this readable and grounded book. At Sarum College where we have the privilege of forming a new generation of women and men for ministry we work hard together to integrate our lives, the seriousness of the role and the challenges of ministry into a loving whole. Rigidities, false personas and unhealthy religion need to be challenged. We know this process as formation for ministry.
‘Becoming Reverend’ is a diary of a journey from discernment and selection for training for ministry, through struggling to become a Father and attempting to reconcile his party-loving football-filled lifestyle to ordination and parenthood. There is a deep sense of likeability about Matt as he races through these experiences with energy and enthusiasm. He commends and models and infectiousness about faith and a real desire to take that faith to the edges and beyond the edges of institutional Christianity. Here is a person who you can talk about God to and be assured that you are not fobbed off with trivial, complacent or sentimental responses.
This is also, in part, a narrative about Matt his and wife Anna’s struggle to parenthood, through IVF treatment. He is honest about their pain and the frustrations and disappointments of the IVF process. Matt’s gift, in part, is it is relationality formed in the pub, amongst his fellow ordinands, in the lecture room and together in prayer in the chapel. He has a sharp eye and an open heart that sees possibilities and opportunities with the energy to inject new life and optimism into tired attitudes and entrenched theological dogma.
There can be for those called to public ministry and over intense religiosity that constantly seeks to assert its self-importance. All of us, at all stages of our discipleship, need to be reminded that it isn’t just about us! We need to point to something richer, deeper and wiser in our proclamation of the Kingdom of God. This means sometimes that we should not take ourselves too seriously and follow Matt’s example of laughing at our own absurdity and self-importance.
Laughter is a gift from God and it has an extraordinary ability to cut through our control, activity and lack of perspective.
You’ll enjoy this book so do look out for it in our bookshop and those of us who read it will be wondering what next from the curate in Hull!