Clergy Support Trust helped me, says parish priest whose training was hit by lockdown

ASSISTANT CURATE Reverend Matthew Grove, whose ordination was jeopardized by the first Covid lockdown, believes his vocation was saved by the Clergy Support Trust (CST).

Mr Grove found himself with no income, living in a faulty motorhome on his brother’s drive and with only a mobile phone for his online studies. The trust adjusted its rules to offer an emergency grant of £500, then provided a laptop, cooker, access to its online library and a contribution for a few days holiday with its children.

“The Trust’s support has brought hope and encouragement in quite a dark time,” Mr Grove said. He is now Assistant Vicar of St John the Baptist, Purbrook, near Portsmouth. “I really don’t think I would have gotten to where I am now without that support at that time.”

In March 2020, at the start of the first lockdown, Mr Grove was in his final months of training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, with a proposed internship in the Diocese of Portsmouth. But the lockdown meant his ordination was postponed and, as he couldn’t live in college, he faced homelessness as his vulnerable parents isolated themselves at their home in Southampton.

“Everything I had except a small suitcase was in storage,” he said. “The only option I had was to live in my dad’s motorhome. It was dry and there were lights, but that was about it; nothing worked – shower didn’t work, toilet didn’t work, fridge didn’t work.

“I was also worried, because the cures were threatened and I might not have a job. Then I heard about the trust’s transition grants to cover the transition of ordinands from training to their first grant. At first I was told I didn’t qualify because I wasn’t ordained, but they wanted to help. There was a real desire to make it work and find ways to help rather than ways to reject me. They were absolutely brilliant. It made me believe that there could be a successful ending to it all.

“The grant helped me buy a kettle, so I had hot water; a bucket to hold me up so I can take a shower with a cup of warm water; cooking utensils, pillows and a duvet. It kept me clean, got a good night’s sleep, and had food that wasn’t to go. It’s incredible: it’s a real gift.

In July 2020 Mr Grove was licensed as a lay worker in the Diocese of Portsmouth and then in October was ordained a deacon.

CSE chief executive Reverend Benjamin Cahill-Nicholls said: “We have to work with criteria, and that’s important to us; but we are a Christian charity, and always try to act with compassion. At the end of the day, we do what we say on the box. It was wonderful that we were able to provide help to Matt.

In 2020, CST, which has been assisting clergy since 1650, provided assistance to 20 trainees facing ordination delays. In total, it made 2,600 payments, totaling £2.5 million, including 1,188 emergency grants. The total payment to the 20 ordinands aided in 2020 was £9,864. This included help to settle in a new place, repairs to a car needed for rural ministry, and money to cover the loss of occasional part-time work while studying.

Last month, the Trust received a record 470 requests for assistance. His support covers everything from general living expenses and technology assistance to funding pensions and vacations. It also runs an insomnia program and free advice to counter problems caused by isolation, exhaustion or exhaustion.

“The pandemic has been a learning curve for everyone,” Cahill-Nicholls said. “We all had to deal with things we didn’t expect, but we realized that many households would be facing a new kind of pressure – people minutes away from clergy who, by right, should already be orderly, but through no fault of their own, are not.

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