Why did Revd Dr Jonathan Rowe choose ordination?
One of the key questions to ask Revd Dr Jonathan Rowe is why on earth would he want to take on more in his life to become a self-supporting curate?
Jonathan is the Director of Ministry for the Diocese and until very recently was also Joint-Principal of the South West Ministry Training Course. The answer, of course, is because he heard God’s calling.
Jonathan is a curate within the Eight Saints group of churches, a big group with a wide geographical range from Feock to Chacewater. Jonathan is connected especially with Feock, Devoran and Perranarworthal. He is self-supporting, which means he doesn’t get paid for the work he does as a priest, but financially supports the role through his other work. Which begs the same question, why would he want to do it. As Director of Ministry, surely that’s enough?
As Director of Ministry, surely that’s enough?
Jonathan’s answer remains steadfast, it’s a role he felt God calling him to. As a Director of Ministry, he has oversight of the training of a great many clergy, helps them work through complex issues and tries to provide some theological insight for the life of the church. But what would it be like actually being on the ground, encountering those problems with communities trying to cope with the messiness of life on a day to day basis?
“It’s a tremendous privilege,” says Jonathan. “Yes, the Bible has the words that frame how we should live, to honour God and live life to the fullest in the way that He intends, but it is has been amazing over this past year to see that in action and to help people at critical times in their life.” Jonathan spoke about a recent funeral when, due to COVID19 restrictions, they held the service at the graveside, in the open air amongst nature. “I talked about God’s loving arms beneath the person who had died and holding him. His daughter later wrote to say how much it had touched and helped her. Those words are from the Bible, they are God’s words and show how He is with us and supports us.”
“Yes, the Bible has the words that frame how we should live, to honour God and live life to the fullest in the way that He intends, but it is has been amazing over this past year to see that in action and to help people at critical times in their life.”
Revd Dr Jonathan’s upside route to ordination
Jonathan acknowledges the slightly upside-down nature of his route to ordination but is absolutely reassured that is all in God’s plan. Before he came to Cornwall with his wife and children, Jonathan worked with the Church Mission Society as Principal of a theological college in Spain. So teaching, theology and exploration of the Word have been an overarching theme of his working life. There is something incredibly rich about all that knowledge and experience being funnelled into his present life with boots very much on the ground, living out and putting into daily practice all the theological theory he has accumulated and taught. “Yes, it’s been an unconventional journey, but I am so grateful for the life I have, the things I have been blessed with and the routes I have followed, rather than worrying about routes I didn’t take. I often come back to Psalm 103, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
Why not become a Reader or Worship Leader?
Again, the question begged to be asked though, why the need for ordination? Why, in this very full life, was Jonathan not content with being a lay Reader or Worship Leader? “All those roles are incredibly valuable, but I felt called to becoming an ordained priest because it’s a call to represent what the church is called to be and to enable the church to fulfil that calling.”
For Jonathan, the visual sign of priesthood carries with it a responsibility. “When I wear a dog collar I am seen as the ‘God person’. And that’s an invitation for people to talk, to question, to think about a life with God. I have been so privileged to connect with people in this way.”
“When I wear a dog collar I am seen as the ‘God person’. And that’s an invitation for people to talk, to question, to think about a life with God. I have been so privileged to connect with people in this way,” Revd Dr Jonathan Rowe
The balancing of online and physical resources during the Covid19 crisis
Like all of the ordinands this year, it has been an exceptional time unlike any other. For Jonathan, it has meant a lot of work balancing an online presence with production of physical resources for those who could not engage online. “The Zoom services were great, very well attended, but they could not reach everyone, so there was quite a lot of work to do to support those who didn’t join in that way.” That included weekly services during lockdown, contributing a ‘Thought for the Week’ to the civic parish’s email newsletters and daily reflections during Holy Week.
So, what does his wife think about all the time Jonathan devotes to this new role, as well as his paid work? “We knew, before we were even married, that we both wanted to live a life with God – wherever that took us and whatever it looked like. It was never going to be something compartmentalised. Following Jesus embraces everything, and we both participate wholeheartedly in church life together.”
Encouraging everyone considering being a self-supporting minister to use harder
It’s undeniable that Revd Dr Jonathan Rowe is a happy man. When he talks about his life as a curate he glows, even on Zoom. “I am happy, and I would encourage anyone who might be thinking they could be a self-supporting minister to push a little further. It is hard work, but it is incredibly rewarding.” It was only when, in his day-job role, he was writing something for a vocations project about what priesthood entailed that it occurred to Jonathan that it might be something he should do, and that God was calling him. If you think God might be calling you, having a word with Revd Dr Jonathan Rowe would be a good place to start.