Wednesday, 25 April 2012


After blogging about the effect of the church on my life, it seems to follow that the next subject should be forgiveness.  Love and forgiveness tend to be the two major themes Christians will preach .  As a minister I would often challenge my congregations by stating that sometime the church is actually the most unforgiving environment.  I grew up with historic stories about people who had committed all sorts of crimes, been forgiven and achieved some form of greatness.  However, within the church those who had let the church down in some way were banished.  Forgiveness certainly seemed to be in short supply among the majority of Christians.  Very few know the reasons why I left the church, but most have abandoned own friendship.  I can only suppose that this is because I committed the greatest sin of all: leaving their church.

It poses the question, ‘Why are so many Christians unforgiving?’  I have reflected on this and in my opinion it is because so many are cradle Christians, e.g. Brought up as regular church goers.  This means that they have lived their lives in a good or even godly fashion as decreed by their church.  This also means that they believe that their actions are always right or righteous and while they may admit to making mistakes they certainly don’t do anything wrong or sinful to use the language of the church.   Having lived such moral lives, these people have no need of personal forgiveness.  They will talk about forgiveness but have no concept on how to forgive others.  In fact, they will often bear a grudge against the so-called sinner. 

I, like many other ministers, was asked whether I could forgive a hardened criminal.  My stock answer would always be ‘it depends on whether they want to be forgiven.’  To forgive someone is all about your own response and feelings to them, as far as the other person is concern it makes no real difference to them.  It is about my attitude towards them of which they may be totally oblivious to.

I was once asked if I could forgive Sandra for all she did to me. I have to move on with my life and waiting for her to ask for forgiveness would only hold me back.  I won’t forgive Sandra but I feel it doesn’t matter anymore whether I do or don’t forgive.  Forgiveness would only matter if there was reconciliation or continuance in the relationship.

 I am completely devoid of any emotion.  Even today, Sandra has never offered any form of apology nor accepted any responsibility for her actions. I can’t forgive and will never forgive.  For me forgiveness is unimportant now.  For years I made excuses and I guess because I stayed, I forgave her.  It served no purpose. It never improved the situation. The only thing I want is some form of admission of the abuse that took place. 


Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Church had been a huge part of my life.  I could not recall a time in my life when I had no association with the church.  I had been an adult member since the age of fourteen. The majority of my friends were connected to the church.  Senior churchmen had decided that I was no longer worthy of membership.  I knew of people that had been imprisoned and behaved immorally and still stayed members of the church.    All my life I had listened too sermons on the themes of compassion and forgiveness but these were virtues not to be found in many so-called Christians.

The only people who were told officially about my membership cancelation were the elders of the last church I ran.  Otherwise, it was left to me whether I divulged that information or not to others.

This meant that I could not attend services at any church in the same diocese because members of the congregation knew me and would want to know my story.  If I went and attended elsewhere, I would be invited to participate in the service.  This would then mean that I would have to explain that I no longer belonged to the church. 

I was soon informed of certain rumours that were circulating over my resignation.  Many within the diocese couldn’t understand why a minister of my calibre would quit without explanation.  Some were saying that the church I led had treated me abysmally and this was why I had left.  Readers of this blog will know that such gossip could not be further than the truth.  However, I hardly wanted the reasons I left to be known by all and sundry.   The last church I led was full of good, caring people (which sadly is a rarity in the church) and I didn’t want their good name tarnished over silly rumour. 

I felt the only way to stop this chitchat was to attend services although I wasn’t really emotionally ready to go back so soon.  I deliberately entered the church just as the service commenced finding a seat as close to the door as possible.  I could feel the tears streaming down my face as I found a place to sit.  That initial visit was very surreal as the last time I was in that church I had been conducting the Easter Sunday service from the pulpit.  It was like an out of body experience.  I was there physically but absence in every other sense.  I stayed in the church for most of the service but intentionally left as the benediction was being sung.   I couldn’t face speaking to anyone; I knew that it would be too much for me. 

I wanted to go to church but attending any church in my own denomination was too painful.  I was hesitating about trying another church because a visitor was easily recognised due the small sized congregations.  The last thing I needed was an over exuberant welcome and questions about my background.  I knew that such interest would be good natured and with the purpose of trying to attract a new church member by being friendly.    The last thing I wanted to do was to explain who I was because once I revealed I’d been a church minister, I could imagine that I’d be encouraged to volunteer for all sorts of activities.   I’d heard of a church that had over thousand people attend its services and this sound the sort of place where I could go to worship, but also hide in a crowd at the same time.

I attended periodically for a while but gradually the novelty wore off.  I still felt deeply hurt by the actions of some so-called Christians and the little faith that remained weakened.  Members of the last church I was the minister at, have kept in touch and have been a good source of encouragement.  However in the storms of life you soon learn who your true friends are.  At one time I thought that I had lots of friends within the church, but know I realise that they were nothing more than associates.  Shortly after my resignation I was standing immediately behind one minister in a supermarket queue and they completely ignored me.  Another minister emailed me and arranged to meet me for a chat.  I agreed and we made arrangements. “I understand things can be tough when you leave the church and I want to be a good friend to you,” he told me.  That was the last time he spoke to me and a few months later I went to a church service  he was leading, he walked straight past me blanking me.  So much for friendliness within the church.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Child Maintenance

As soon as it became obvious I was not returning to the marital home, I entered into a private maintenance arrangement with Sandra.  This included a monthly monetary payment, arrangement to pay insurance policy premiums for the children.  As Sandra still didn’t drive (although she was suppose to be taking her driving test twenty years earlier!), I also promised to transport the children whenever they needed lifts.  As any parent of teenagers will know, this is quite expensive before any other outlay.  Besides, arranging to do this gave me another excuse to see and spend time with my children.  Sandra seemed happy with this arrangement and I never defaulted on any payments.  When I left the church ministry, there was a three month period when I was not working and nor did I claim any form of benefit.  However, with no income coming in I still ensured that I met this payment.

When I was a Church Minister Sandra knew what I was earning so did not have any issue with our private maintenance agreement.  Without any prior discussion when Sandra learnt that I had been offered two jobs, she contacted the Child Support Agency(CSA).

It’s difficult as a man to be complimentary about the CSA.  The first I knew about Sandra contacting them was when I received a strongly worded letter implying that I had failed my legal duty in not contributing anything towards Child Maintenance.  The letter also issued an extremely short deadline for me to respond or otherwise face legal consequences.  It was upsetting to receive such a letter as I had been very compliant as far as arrangements to the children were concerned. 

I immediately telephoned the CSA and their telephone manner was completely different to their aggressive letters campaign.  The case worker was very sympathising and talked me through the information they needed to make an assessment.  She explained that if we had a private Maintenance Agreement that we both agreed on  then the assessment would only serve as a guideline.  She also told me that the assessment would also take into consideration the number of occasions that the children stayed overnight at my home.  After talking to the CSA by telephone, I felt more comfortable about the situation.

The next time I collected the children, I attempted to speak to Sandra about the CSA and expressed my unhappiness that she had gone directly to them.  It wasn’t as if I was a father neglecting his responsibilities.  That weekend I drew up a new private arrangement offering Sandra an increased cash allowance, commitment to continue the transportation and insurance policies of the children.  I also offered an additional arrangement whereby I would make arrangements to look after the children so that Sandra could attend the many residential courses that the church expected her to attend.   Sandra initially agreed to this but reneged on this understanding when I produced a written copy and I asked her to sign it.  She tore up the revised private maintenance plan.

As requested, I submitted all the information required to the CSA.  They made their assessment and submitted their report to both Sandra and I.   I felt even more victimised when I looked at the CSA figures.  The compliant non -residential parent is hit hard.  The deduction the CSA makes allowing for overnight stays amounted to a measly 50p per child per night.  Absolutely scandalous!  I wish I could look after them on that amount. 

Sandra saw one big lump sum and decided that she wanted the suggested amount of money.  I did try to reason and told her that I would pay the suggested amount but then I wouldn’t be able to afford all the add-ons on top of that.   Rather than pay a monthly amount into Sandra’s bank account, Sandra now decided that she would collect child maintenance through the CSA.  Again, this angered me.  It wasn’t as if I had refused to contribute to the children’s upkeep.  I was prepared to keep things civil and continue paying in the fashion that I had paid Sandra thus far.  

I informed Sandra that by her choosing the non-negotiation route would make the situation awkward for everyone but Sandra had no intention in listening.

The next time I went to collect the children, Sandra came to the door and started speaking in a pleasant manner.  By now I had learnt that the only time Sandra would face me when I picked-up the children would be when she wanted a favour.  Usually when I called, she would stay out of sight and away from the front entrance of the house.

“Hi”, she said, “I have a course to go on which lasts a week and I wondered whether you can have the children so that I can go on it. After all, you did say that you would have the children so I can do this.”   The cheek of the woman, she was being rather selective over what had been said.  I remind Sandra that I had proposed such an arrangement which she’d refused preferring to receive 30 pieces of silver from the CSA.   Furthermore, knowing Sandra to be the compulsive liar she is, I knew that I was now an easy excuse for her to use with her employers.  I could hear her saying, “He said he’d have the children, but cancelled at last minute.” Still, nothing I can do about that.  Hopefully others will see through her lies.

The Child Support Agency has a grossly unfair method of making maintenance calculations.  Absent parents are victimised for living apart from their children.  As you may know from this blog, I had no choice.  The only absent parents that benefit from the CSA are those who are unemployed as the CSA will then make a ‘Nil’ assessment.    


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Lone Working

I was offered two jobs, although both were not full time contracts.  Both were working with Charities involved in the care sector.  One was agency work and I was told that there were plenty of shifts available with opportunity of a full time contract.  The other was a supplementary job working on a zero hour basis.  Both roles involved an element of lone working.

As a church minister, lone working was nothing new to me.  However, being trained to keep and stay safe while lone working was a new concept.  The church had a lone working policy that applied to employees, but ministers did not fall under that category.  No church legally considers their ministers as employees.  Such any minister take any sort of action against the church as their employer, the case is always thrown out of court.  Currently, no courtroom will overturn the church’s stance that the minister’s contract is with God, not the church as the minister entered into a spiritual covenant rather than an employment contract.

Many Church ministers get called upon to enter dangerous situations with very few people knowing where they are.  No risk assessments are ever carried out concerning the well-being and safety of a minister.  In recent years several vicars have been murdered by people they were trying to help.  Around 12% of all clergy have suffered some form of harassment or suffering.  I’d never even thought about my own safety as a church minister.  I’d entered squats and other dangerous places alone.  I’d had to deal with people who were very clearly disturbed unaware whether they posed a risk.    Putting your trust in God alone sometimes isn’t enough.

I only realised the importance of feeling safe when lone working when instructed by the two charities that employed me.  Both gave me alarms and instructions to follow your gut instinct.  Both had policies that mean that all work spaces including clients homes were risked assessed.   One charity also gave me a works mobile phone and every appointment was clearly logged.  If there were any last minute changes, I had to notify the control office immediate.  There were also certain times of the day where I had to make contact.  Failure to respond could mean that my own personal safety plan was put into operation. Knowing that the organisation was looking out for my welfare certainly helped my own sense of well-being.  I felt I was working for an organisation that actually valued me as a person. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Job Hunting

It had been over twenty five years since I last looked for an alternative job.  Preparing my CV took several days.  What skills do I enter on it?  Would seventeen years as a church minister mean anything to prospective employers?  Technology had changed the search.  An abundance of websites all making claims that they had the right job for you.  I’d not really had to look for work before; it seemed to find me so this was a completely new experience.  I’d actually started my first job before I officially left school, working on days that I was suppose to be studying for my O levels and just taking off the days when I sat my examinations.  I can’t even recall being interviewed for this job.  It was a typical school leaver’s role that my Father had arranged for me.   I just turned up one day and started as a junior office boy.  It suited a purpose but offered no long term prospect.  After twelve months I began looking for employment with better career prospects.  Someone who attended the same church as me, knew I was looking and so recommended me to his management.  His company interviewed me and offered me a new job.  I knew that I didn’t really sell myself well at interview. It was only because my new company preferred taking on people that came recommended by valued staff that I embarked on a new career.  I did change jobs after this but stayed in the same industry.  Again, I didn’t really look for work but was headhunted by people who knew my reputation or had previously managed me.

When I felt it was time to leave this industry and enter church ministry, there was a different selection process.  Not everyone who expresses an interest in church ministry gets chosen. Someone wanting to become a church minister first had to be an active member of their own church.  The church elders then had to give their backing and vouch for the suitability of the applicant.  The applicant would then be interviewed by the Diocese before attending an appraisal weekend which would determine whether or not the applicant would be invited to complete a residential course at the Ministers Training College. 

It took me a while to break down all that I did as a Church minister and write it in a style that would be understood.  Most job adverts stated that if you hadn’t heard back from them within a certain timescale then on that occasion your application was unsuccessful. It can be soul destroying sending off application after application and not receiving any feedback back.  Just the slightest news would offer a snippet of encouragement.  With so many people job hunting, prospective employers probably haven’t the recruitment budget to respond to everyone. 

There were also unscrupulous people seeking to take advantaged of the unemployed.  One scam I came across was that I received an email stating that on this occasion my application was unsuccessful, but the agency could train me up so that I had the necessary qualification.  Even better news was that they would pay me for the days I studied.    All I had to do was email them my bank details!  Strangely enough, the only way to find them on the internet was via a link that they sent to you.  No internet search would direct you to the same site.  It sickened me that these vultures were preying on people desperate for work and robbing those who failed to recognise yet another internet scam.

 I just wanted to work so applied for all roles I thought that I could.  Within a month I had been offered several interviews with different care providers.


I came out of the consultation with senior churchmen feeling that the only option available to me was resignation.  The interview techniques used implied to me that this was the best course of action.  They were very subtle though.  When I first mentioned resignation, the immediate response was “you’ll lose your car if you resign.” This struck me as a very peculiar answer.  True, as part of the salary package I‘d lose the leased company vehicle, but it would also mean that I would have to find somewhere else to live.  I thought that when speculating on resigning, the last thing that was on my mind was the perk of a company car!  I had far more important things to consider.  

Most of the country was caught up in Royal wedding celebrations but partying was the last thing on my mind.  I was in a rather morose state.  I drafted out a resignation letter. I had sought the advice of some people who thought I was being rather hasty.  I went for a long lengthy walk in the countryside listening to music through my ipod.  Some people might have decided that they would front the situation out but I felt totally ashamed of the behaviour I had been confronted with. After I finished walking, I posted my letter of resignation to the church administrators.

I decided to accept responsibility for my actions and face the consequences.  It still pains me today that what I did was a mistaken way of trying to save my marriage but ended up costing me everything.  While I have admitted my shortcomings, Sandra has never acknowledged her role in my destruction or accepted any accountability for her behaviour even when challenged.  Despite being the perpetrator of long term Domestic Violence, Sandra still remains a church minister.

After resigning, the church arranged for the leased car to be collected.  They paid for a transporter to collect it off my driveway and deliver it a store area in London.  Within a many of weeks, they then reassigned the leased car I had driven, to another church minister.  By this time, I had also left the manse.  Bizarrely, the leased car was then transported back from London as the church minster they’d reassigned the car to, was now residing in the manse that I had occupied.  They could not have been that concerned about the way they used church funds.  I have been made to feel that I was the world’s biggest criminal in my misappropriation of church funds.  I had also paid back every penny (and more) that I had taken without consent.  None of my previous exemplary conduct was taken into account.  I had no help with relocation.  I was even notified that my membership of the church had been cancelled.  I had been a life-long member.  I had made great sacrifices all my life for the church and now a church preaching forgiveness and restoration was casting me out without any compassion.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Just as I was finally becoming stable in all areas of my life, my past caught up with me and everything came crashing down once again.  In attempting to keep Sandra happy during the last years of the marriage, I’d over claimed on my expenses from the church and used the additional money to fund family trips and holidays.  Had I been in the right frame of mind at that time I would never have even contemplated such action. I was summoned to the diocese offices and asked about a couple of cheques I had written a few years beforehand.  I was completely dumbstruck when confronted with the evidence.  I had blocked out my behaviour and could not offer any reasonable explanation.  The bishop advised me that whatever the outcome ‘the Integrity of the Church will not be compromised.’ 

This was a phrase I’d heard ten years previously from a former Bishop who used it on that occasion when an investigation into church activities was taking place.  I suspect that it is a line given to Bishops to pass on in disciplinary scenarios.  On both instances when I heard it, I interpreted it as a thinly-veiled threat that if I was guilty in any way or shape or form I was on my own.

On the first occasion, I was involved in an investigation against a volunteer worker within the church.  When arrested, the volunteer made counter accusations which were quickly disregarded as being without any substance.  This was a deeply harrowing time.  Many people were affected by the allegations and I could not explain what was happening for fear of compromising the investigation.   When I tried to speak to Sandra in the privacy of our home about the situation, she did not want to know and so I had to carry this great burden alone.  Once the church was satisfied that they had not been implicated as an organisation, they withdrew all forms of support.  No one ever spoke to me afterwards about the impact this distressing case had on me.  I am convinced though that had I been involved, I would have been completely ostracised. 

However the second time I was informed about the integrity of the church being protected, I was guilty.  I admitted that I had used church funds without permission and while questions were being asked of my conduct, I was also told that I would be given some time off work.  However as this was the week leading up to Easter, the decision was delayed until afterwards so that the church leadership did not have to find a replacement to cover my services.

I approached the Easter Sunday service knowing full well that it could be the last church service I conducted.  The Christian message of Easter concerns forgiveness and I recall making some mention of forgiveness during the service.   During the week that followed, I was interviewed and questioned about the events of a few years before by a senior churchman.  This man wasn’t even at my Easter Sunday Service and yet in his interrogation of me actually referred to me speaking about forgiveness. I was absolutely shocked, talk about Big Brother watching you.   Moreover, I was horrified about my past deeds and decided I only had one course of action and that was to resign as a church minister.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012


One word characterised this new chapter of my church ministry: Release.  Quite ironic really because it also represented a message I’d often portrayed when speaking to different groups. While I was training to become a minister, a friend of mine had come across a magic dealer selling all sorts of props and gimmicks.  He purchased a handcuff escape routine and I believe I was the first person to witness it.  The impact of the illusion captivated me so much that I had to be taken to the same shop. 

During the years that followed I expanded my repertoire and found that the use of conjuring tricks opened doors.  I was able to visit all sorts of establishments and would always finish my set with an escapology routine and then expound a short talk on how faith can release a person from all sorts of problems that could bind one mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.

I had been released of Sandra’s insecurity or dare I say it, jealousy over my own talents.  I no longer needed to suppress my ability and slowly I was able to have my confidence restored. 

I had a great team of church elders working alongside me and we had a fantastic working relationship.  I don’t know what their thoughts were when they first learnt that I was going to be leading their church.  I imagine that they might be concerned for the workload I would be taking on.  I could envisage that they might be worried that I was carrying too much baggage to be an effective leader of their church.  For me, communication was essential.  I met with my leadership and was absolutely amazed that their first concern was over my well-being. 

Tragically, many church ministers resigned because of friction between themselves and their church elders.  Meetings between the two could be fraught as some church elders took these meetings as an opportunity to tell the minister where they were going wrong.  Church ministers often would approach these meetings as a means to justify some dictatorial decision.  Knowing the egos of some church leaders, I could sympathise with some elders.  For myself, experience had taught me that consultation with elders was always the wisest approach.

The church elders did express their concerns to me, but it was apprehension that I was doing too much and they were fearful that I would exhaust myself.  I was overwhelmed that here was a group of people who actually cared.  Most church ministers are criticised for doing too little.  For the first time in my career I was even told that if I needed a weekend off at any time, just let them know and they would sort everything out.  It was a pleasure to work alongside these lovely people who I now count as close friends.

I’d shared with the church elders why my marriage had broken down as I felt that I was accountable to them.  Members of the congregation knew nothing other than I was separated and as far as I know, no-one was gossiping or trying to pry into my circumstances.  Again, this was a rare experience with the Church.  Many church attendees love a juicy snippet of tittle-tattle.  This church was unique in that everyone attached to it really cared. They weren’t concerned with rumour, but were focussed on the mission of the church.

This was the happiest and most fulfilling time of my ministry and I felt released and able to be myself for once. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Twist of Fate

The decision to relocate me a good distance away from my children had solely come from one person, the denomination’s national leader.  My immediate leaders had all recommended that I stay in the diocese.  I had also provided a statement not only outlining my reasons for wishing to remain but also vowing that I would not cause any embarrassing or confrontational moments at any church event when both Sandra and I could be present.  Without showing any Christian compassion, concern or pastoral care, I was to be cast out of the district just like the scapegoat thrown out into the wilderness.    The only way I could overturn the National Church leader’s decision was to appeal to his line managers and so, with the full support of my bishop, I spent all of the Easter holidays working on my petition. My bishop had offered to advise my on the correct protocol to use.  Just before I was about to submit my request, my bishop contacted me to recommend that I delay my submission for a couple of days because he had heard some rumours relating to my impending appointment. 

Without my knowledge, some former parishioners of mine had formally raised a petition asking for me to stay in the diocese.  I was extremely stirred by their action.  The result was that the National leader who was not known for changing his mind, revoked his earlier decision and gave me a church within the same diocese.   At first I was particularly overjoyed  at being allowed to continue my vocation and stay within the diocese and more importantly, close by to my children.  However, as the euphoria wore off, I felt insulted for the church that I was appointed to had never had their own church minister and was usually one that was used to train inexperienced church ministers or those considering the ministry.  It was not used to having a minister of my experience.  It was as if the leader of the denomination was sending out a message saying you would have been better off leaving the diocese! 

Does God moves in a mysterious way as often quoted?  Some might say so with what happened next.  I prefer to say that fate suddenly intervened.  Sadly within the diocese, another church minister’s marriage broke down.  One might you think that marriages within the church never lasted.  This was extremely rare .  In nearly eighteen years, I had never known personally of any marital separations among my peers although occasionally I might hear of ministers facing matrimony difficulties.  Within a matter of months  my diocese suddenly had two break-ups within it.  

More importantly for me, it meant that there was another church within the diocese needing a minister and that church took priority over the one I had been assigned to.

As I took up the church leadership, I finally felt that I could finally be the minister I was meant to be when I first embarked on my vocation all those years ago.  The years with Sandra had destroyed my confidence, but I didn’t need to worry about her reactions now.   My new parishioners were very encouraging and supportive.  They seemed to appreciate my honesty and my work ethic.  I never tried selling a ‘pie in the sky when you die’ spiritually but spoke from my own personal experience with sincerity.   At long last I felt fulfilled in my calling and I didn’t need to hide behind a mask. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


The next three months were mentally the most difficult time of my life.  I had lost my home, I missed being apart from my children, and the church in their compassion decided that withdrawing me from all aspects of church ministry was in my best interests.    I could have sunk into deep depression.  I had my fair share of down days that’s for sure.  I had been re-located and was now living very sparsely in an unused cold manse that the church had earmarked for selling.  It never felt like home, but it was a roof over my head.  This meant that I was living a few miles away from my entire support network.  I knew no one in that particular neighbourhood.  It would have been so easy to stay in bed all day and not bother attempting to live.  That’s how I felt.  But I knew that my children needed their father more than ever now.  For that reason alone, I faced each individual day as it arrived.  I decided that I needed some form of routine, something each day that would motivate me to make an effort.    Although it was winter, I decided that every day I would find somewhere different to walk.     I was quite fortunate for within the local vicinity were a network of canals and several rivers.  For me, I have always found walking alongside flowing water very tranquil and peaceful.  My parents and friends seemed to realise that this was my coping strategy against depression and would always enquire about my journeying.   Being away from all the hustle and bustle of civilisation and walking through landscapes unharmed by human kind, provided some sort of therapy.

To give my week some form of structure, I enrolled for adult swimming sessions.  I had never really learnt to swim at school.  This became an important part of my recovery.  Learning to swim gave me a positive goal, something to work for and a real sense of achievement.  The learners group was mostly retired women and they were not used to young men joining the classes.  But they all welcomed me and we encouraged each other in our own personal quest.  No one knew anything about me and I could just launch myself in the water and metaphorically all my troubles would be washed away.  One or two men did join the group, but they didn’t stay long.   I observed that some people seemed to sign up for swimming lessons prior to a holiday expecting that after a couple of lessons they would be able to swim.  Of course that’s not the case and in wanting to swim, I needed great perseverance, determination, patience and discipline.  Looking back now I can see that exercising these traits were not only useful for learning to swim but are needed all the more so coming to terms with my own abuse and continuing with my vocation.

The few people who know the truth wondered why I allowed the children to remain with Sandra.  As I’ve already mentioned, Sandra had not shown any physical signs towards the children.   My future was uncertain.  I now had a roof over my head but that’s about all.  I was living a very sparse and basic life.  Furthermore, the children had attended a lot of primary schools and needed stability.  I, myself, had attended four Secondary schools in five years which did affect the qualifications I obtained and my subsequent future.  Educationally, I felt I underachieved because of the inconsistency of my schooling.  Leaving the children where they were would ensure unaltered education. 

School recesses always seemed to be a trigger for Sandra’s anger and the first one post our separation proved so.  I had arranged to look after the children for a few days and when I collected them, the oldest child was clearly distressed.    Sandra had been verbally bulling this child and there was no way I would allow this child to return back in that situation.  Knowing that Sandra wasn’t at home, we returned to the house and collected some personal effects.  Later that day, I returned the younger two children back to Sandra but when she enquired about the third child, I said that this particular youngster was too upset to return and was refusing to have any contact with Sandra.     Sandra flew into a rage at this news demanding to speak with the youngster who at that stage wanted nothing to do with mother.  I could understand this totally for I had experienced those same feelings for years.

After a couple of days, the younger two children were clearly suffering being apart from their sibling.  It was most upsetting hearing their voices on the telephone asking when their sibling was returning back to them.   After much heart searching, the oldest youngster decided to return for the sake of the other two, but I also believe that this child became empowered for Sandra was told in no uncertain terms that next time it happened, there would be no returning.  There have been minor squabbles since but Sandra now doesn’t go too far for fear of losing her children.

The decision to grant me compassionate leave would be soon reviewed and a further decision made about my future.   The church was notorious for having a ‘one size fits all’ approach for every feasible situation and was always most guarded about thinking outside of the box for fear of setting a new precedent.

When marriages among clergy broke down due to infidelity, the party guilty of infidelity would leave the church.   However, when infidelity wasn’t the cause of marital separation and both parties still wished to remain in church ministry, the usual precedent was that the church would keep one party were they currently ministered and find another church in another diocese for the other person.

As Sandra was still residing in the manse and the children were settled in local schools, it didn’t take much working out who the likely candidate to move away from the diocese was.  I could predict that senior church leadership would want to move me out of the area so prior to them considering my case, I submitted an appeal for myself to stay within reasonable distance to my children.  I highlighted to them once again, the impact of Sandra’s volatile temperament and the impact it could have on the children, strongly expressing that I needed to be close by so that should Sandra explode against the children I was close enough to get them out to safety.  The last thing I wanted was to be a couple of hours drive away which is what would happen if normal policy was adhered too.  I also stressed that with Sandra unable to drive, I needed to be in the immediate vicinity so that I could transport the children to their school/church/social activities.  If I was hours away, the children would struggle to attend any event away from home

Did the senior church listen and consider my request?   You would hope that a church which promotes strong family values and wanted to be seen as child friendly would not want to or wish to cause further separation between a father and his children?

I was also interviewed on 10th March where I re-iterated this stance.  You can imagine the mixed emotions I felt when the decision was relayed to me via a letter dated 29th March  which informed me that :

‘at the conclusion of your three months ‘compassion leave,’ you are to receive a new posting OUTSIDE OF THE DICOESE.’ 

As per procedure, this letter was from my bishop and he was kind enough to add the following to the template letter he’d been delegated to send:

‘I am sorry to have to pass this news onto you, because I realise that this is not what you wanted and is not what I recommended to senior churchmen.  However, I have been told that this is in keeping with previous decisions.’

Again, my bishop offered his support and advised that I could appeal against this decision taking it up to the next level of management: the international leadership of the church.

As far as I was concerned, I only had two options.  I most definitely was going to raise an appeal and if that failed, I decided I would resign from the church.  There was absolutely no way on this earth that I was going to leave the district and leave my children unprotected.