Revd Ian Tweedie-Smith was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Purton, west of Swindon, on 17 October 2012.
I was born in Aldershot in 1960, and brought up on a farm in Mattingley (near Hook). When I was 6 we moved to Fleet (all in North-East Hampshire) and lived in a flat in a large rundown Victorian building called Stockton House - back then it was riddled with dry rot and due for demolition. Much of my school life was in Berkshire and it was there in 1973 that I met a group of Christians. There was something different about them; they had something I had not got.
As I met with them I discovered I also met with Christ, or rather Christ met with me. I realised that I too wanted to become one of his followers. As I look back it was the most significant decision of my life and yet as I look back it was a decision that Christ had prepared the way for and enabled me to take.
Soon after I developed arthritis, which gradually disabled me to the extent I could only walk short distances and could not study because of the constant pain. So I had to leave school part way through my A levels. As I developed arthritis I also developed a sense of calling from God to get ordained in the Church of England. Yet my health and my calling did not seem to match and I went to live in Shipley (in West Yorkshire). I lived in the curates house and saw a vicars life first hand. The Church had begun a healing ministry and whilst I was there God graciously healed me of my arthritis and with that He reaffirmed my calling to ordination. I then worked selling kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, went back to college, got some A levels and on to University in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Meanwhile I was selected for ordination and moved to Oxford to complete my training. Whilst I was there I got to know Celia, who subsequently proposed to me! My first appointment was to the Inner City - New Cross (South East London) in 1985, and two years later Celia and I got married. Then in 1989 we moved to Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk) - George was born in 1991 and Ruth in 1994. In 2002 we moved to Woking (Surrey) for a part-time role as Team Vicar for All Souls Sutton Green and St Marks Westfield, also working part-time at a much restored Stockton House in Fleet.
When my father died an opportunity came to develop and use Stockton House in some way in God's service, and so I decided to establish a Christian Conference Centre there. It is my vision to see Christians (especially those in leadership) supported, encouraged and trained so that their walk with God and their work within the Church is grown and enhanced. There is also a School on the site (An Early Years Foundation for children aged 2-4). My mother began this back in 1968 and it continues to provide a real service for the local community with the majority of the children receiving government grants. I now have oversight over the school and I believe it is important that Christians support and encourage the provision of education in our society.
Now with our children leaving home - George is a Church Apprentice in Leicester and Ruth has just started studying Geography at Durham University - Celia and I are prayerfully ready for a new challenge. We would value your prayers as I continue part-time at Stockton House and especially as I begin as half-time Priest-in-Charge here in St Marys Purton. Throughout the past almost 39 years since I became a Christian I can truthfully say God has never failed me nor forsaken me (Joshua chapter 1 verse 5), and so together as a family and as a Church community we look to God as we step out in faith in this new chapter of our lives. Thank you for your welcome and your support, it is my prayer that together we might know God and make Him known and discover afresh that He will never fail us nor forsake us in the years ahead.