So I’m Tobie (spelt ‘ie’ as it is derived from Tobias, at least that is how my parents described it to me). I grew up in a small village called Cleeve, exactly half way between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare on the A370. I went to school at St Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol, “the loveliest church in the whole of England,” according to Queen Elizabeth the first, and love the city very much. My family has been going to church most of my life.
But my faith did not become alive until my Grandparents took my sister and me on a trip to the Holy Land. It was here that things suddenly became real to me, to sit on the hill where Jesus could have sat and preached the sermon on the mount, to walk the streets of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. To see the places as real places had an amazing effect on me at the age of 11.
My calling for the priesthood came when I was 12. I was sat in a sermon (no comment on the quality of the sermon honest!) on holiday with my parents when I heard the Lord say to me “I want you to be my priest.” I knew that this was where I was going to end up eventually, but until the time was right I thought I would study something else I was passionate about. This became more important when I was looking for universities.
I chose to study Rural Resource Management at Plymouth University, as I loved the countryside, both my parents come from Devon, and I wanted to learn about the environment and how we can better manage the world’s resources. This was at the Seale Hayne faculty of agriculture food and land use near Newton Abbott (what was Seale Hayne Agricultural College).
My course was a sandwich course, which meant I had to find something to do for a year in my third year. I was lucky enough to spend 6 months of this year in Africa with USPG. I was working in Zambia for the Makeni Ecumenical Centre, evaluating the agricultural resettlement programme. This meant that I spent most of my time in the Villages talking to the farmers, which was both hard and very rewarding. I fell in love with Africa.
Bishop Jim Thompson recommended me for training in 1996 and I moved to Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford.
I am not new to Taunton as I served my curacy with some amazingly loving people at St George’s, Wilton and St Michael’s, Galmington.
I moved from here to Bath Abbey which was quite an experience. It gave me an appreciation for people who like traditional language in their liturgies, as well as exploring the advantages that a pro cathedral like the Abbey has to offer. It was an interesting balance of being a place of worship for a committed congregation as well as a destination for the many tourists we welcomed. I enjoyed working with such a big team of people consisting of staff and volunteers.
I moved to Canada in 2005 to serve in two churches just North of Barrie a town of about 130,000 people. North America is fascinating place to be and Canada particularly. Canada manages to blend the North American way of life with a very British spirit. My time in Canada has given me a greater breadth of the Anglican Church world-wide, learning new liturgies and the different ways the church is run within the Anglican Communion.
Canada was too far from families, so I moved back to Wells to serve St Thomas’ and look after a few Mendip villages as well. It has been amazing to be at the centre of the diocese, which has helped build relationships with the Bishops, The Old Deanery, and the Cathedral. I have loved working with the choir and music group here in developing the breadth of Anglican worship. I am a collaborative leader that has a great desire to see all people released into the callings that God has for all of them. Here that has meant working with teams of people and I am looking forward to seeing the teams that already exist in both your churches.
I love films, and enjoy both going to the cinema and staying at home with Netflix. I love skiing, this was easy in Canada where there were 3 ski hills in the parish and my voluntary time was spent giving and training people to
do advanced first aid on the ski hills as part of the Canadian Ski Patrol. My chosen mode of transport would be by Motorcycle, and my voluntary time here has been training people to ride their motorcycles to an advanced standard with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, using the police Roadcraft system.
I am at the moment without a dog, but soon after the move there will be a bundle of black Labrador spreading his fibres of joy and love (hair!) all over the new vicarage.
I have experienced many parts of this wonderful world that God has given us, but am always pulled back home, living by the guiding principles Jesus gave us of “loving God with all our soul, mind and strength and our neighbours as ourselves”, and believing as the prophet Micah tells us, “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
It is exciting to think of the journey that God will take us on over the next few years, and I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.