The Revd Canon Dr Peter Shepherd

Andrew has suggested that I write this piece about myself by way of introduction. I am very much looking forward to serving with him and Martin, and am grateful for the generous welcome I have received.

Not at all from a religious family, although baptised (as were we all!) as a baby, I ‘fell’ into the Faith after joining the church choir, aged 11. By the time I was ready to go to university I felt that, whilst God was calling me to priesthood, he was definitely not calling me to parochial ministry. At the time, however, the two went hand in hand; so instead of theology, I undertook a degree in history (as it happened, a very good grounding for what was to follow) and afterwards began work as a secondary teacher. However, this sense of ‘calling’ persisted, and I fairly soon began to explore the possibility of ordination. The Selectors agreed that I had an ‘unusual’ vocation, and that I should continue as a teacher after ordination rather than become a vicar – what had only recently become known as Auxiliary Pastoral Ministry, now Self-Supporting Ministry (SSM). Because Chichester Diocese didn’t have a training scheme at that time (mid-70s), I was told to get a theology degree by private study, and was attached to a parish priest (in my home town of Eastbourne), who had been Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford – those of you who know about such things will therefore understand that the context of my subsequent training was very ‘high church’ (plenty of incense), although my own background had been pretty ‘middle-of-the-road’. It was a wonderful and fulfilling experience: I learned so much from that rich tradition that has stayed with me ever since, and although I would not call myself ‘anglo-catholic’ (I am, for example, a supporter of women’s ordination/consecration), I am certainly more on the Catholic/Sacramental than the Evangelical wing of the Church. My theological position has been consistently ‘modern’ and ‘liberal’ – in other words, I continue to ask difficult questions, and am never satisfied with apparently easy answers. I am a devoted fan of the writings of the late, great Anglican theologian, John Macquarrie – but it’s quite difficult stuff!

In 1982, the family (wife, Sue, whom you may know as Christian Aid organiser for the Ribble Valley, and who was a professional youth worker, and our two daughters Juliette: now a teacher, and Penny, a social worker) moved to Clitheroe as I took up, first the deputy headship, and then fairly quickly afterwards, the Headship of Archbishop Temple School in Preston (I think, at 34, the youngest Head in the area). I also became honorary assistant priest at St Mary Magdalene, where I have served as SSM until recently. In 1989 I became Head of Canon Slade School in Bolton, a CE 11 – 18 comprehensive of around 1800 pupils. Suddenly, in 2005, I became seriously ill and, following major surgery and 4 months in hospital, took early retirement – the loss of a job I loved led to something akin to grieving!

It probably took a year to get back on my feet and, at that stage, Bishop Nicholas asked me to become Diocesan SSM Officer (a post I still hold). I also became an honorary tutor for LCTP (our training scheme for those preparing for Ordination or Reader Ministry), teaching both Christian Doctrine and Liturgy (and, when needed, Preaching). I was also appointed as a tutor for IME 4 – 7: the course which all new clergy have to undertake during their first three years (Andrew was one of my tutees!). All these activities are a delight, in that I have an excuse to spend a considerable amount of time ‘doing’ theology. My Doctorate explored the ecclesiological implications of, and thus the theological rationale for, church schools, pointing out in passing the intellectual bankruptcy of Anglican policy! I have had published a book on Christian values in education, and various book chapters and Journal articles on related themes. I am currently secretary of the Deanery Synod and a member of the Diocesan Synod. I chair the Diocesan Schools’ Committee and sit on the Board of Education.

It will no doubt be recognised that my main skill is teaching, and it may be that skill can be put to use in the two parishes. My main academic interests are in the historical (both ancient and modern) development of Christian doctrines and liturgy, both of which require a good knowledge and understanding of Biblical interpretation (I have some Greek, but sadly no Hebrew!!!), and I continue to dabble in issues to do with church schools, RE and Christian values. I am a devoted explorer of French wine.

Peter Shepherd