Twenty years ago today I was ordained into the diaconate of the Church of England in Newcastle Cathedral. Back then I loved the Church, especially the spiky bits of it. But now I realise that this was because I only knew its surface. Very soon in my priestly career I was to discover the disappointing murkiness of its depths; the hypocrisy of the clergy, the lust for power of its company men (and now, tragically, women as well) and the deep rooted, unregulated and institutional prejudice and bigotry that far surpasses anything the secular world is routinely guilty of.
I have spent a quarter of my priesthood unemployed and in exile, shunned and avoided by almost all my colleagues from the moment I was diagnosed as clinically depressed and admitted into hospital. Told by my bishop that a person who has suffered from mental health problems should never be a parish priest I have spent most of my time online among the outcasts, doing my own thing, making my own mistakes and winning my own victories. My refusal to toe the party line concerning these people and my insistence on using their language to tell their stories has given the powers that be yet another excuse to ostracise me and to feel righteous while doing so.
But, I now have permission to officiate in my diocese and I have always had a (built on the) rock solid assurance of my God given vocation so I continue, foolish as it is to most people, to have the hope and desire to one day soon be serving in the parish ministry to which I was called.
On the whole I now despise the Church but I still love my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who walked among the lepers and was crucified for doing so.