When Doug Heming left Bedford for a gap year in Asia, little did he realise that simply doing good wouldnt be understood. He found that people he met were often confused when they couldnt easily label him by his (intended) job.
On returning to the UK he took a degree in Peace Studies in Bradford during which he found himself on placement in the West Bank running kids clubs. Afterwards he worked for World Vision building links between UK and Palestinian churches. Bamboozled by eschatlogical views of the troubles derived from different readings of the Bible books of Romans and Revelation, Doug decided he wanted to be able to give a useful response and so after gaining an MA in Systematic Theology, he embarked on a PhD in Comparative Zionism.
At that point life took an unexpected turn. Dougs wife, Zoe, became ill and with chronic pain was housebound for a while. And with her mum diagnosed with cancer, they moved back to her home town on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Doug was forced to suspend his studies to make ends meet and found himself working for, then partner in, a scaffolding business. It was a steep learning curve but as three children arrived, life fell into a rhythm. Until, that was, his business partner suddenly left the business and he found himself on his own, running a firm that was rapidly expanding across the country and providing employment and stability to a growing number of ex-prisoners.
A feeling of unease settled over him; a dissatisfaction with his success and questions about the future. It left him feeling isolated - not just by virtue of being the boss who had to manage employees, nor by the lack of relationship with his customers due to contracts that seemed to be won and fulfilled by frenetic phone calls - but even in church where busyness in serving and participating resulted in a lot of activity but stifled relationships.
Talking to their curate highlighted a similarly disjointed career path for many biblical leaders, notably the prince-fugitive-shepherd-commander roles of Moses. In a difficult year, Doug and Zoe explored his calling into the priesthood, a calling to engage with people more and reinvest the church as a place to stop, talk and relate to each other. Through an operation and recovery for Zoe, their church family helped out. Its when I realised This is what its all about: meeting and being with one another says Doug. It was just a matter of weeks between being given the go-ahead to study for ordination and him passing on the business, moving the family to Oxford and beginning his training.
We need to help people let go of a life where technology can take control of us, and make places holy spaces where people can spend time in prayer and contemplation to let God talk rather than shout louder when we think people arent listening! Church as a place we come to on Sunday and face the front may need rethinking. In the gospels people often came to Jesus with questions to which they already knew the answer; He challenged them to do the right that they already knew. People need to think and interacting fosters and nurtures faith, hope & humanity.
Doug has been placed with the churches of Ashley, Mucklestone, Broughton & Croxton, four villages to the east of Market Drayton in north Shropshire. Yet the biggest conurbation within the parish boundaries is the village of Loggerheads which has no church of its own. Working out how Loggerheads does community in a village which has no meeting hall will be interesting. The issue of communal space is poignant: while pubs and shops often close, in most villages our churches are still available. The Church needs to be less precious about its buildings before it can do anything else: it needs to help society congregate again. That's the importance of the parish church.