Our interview series continues. This week, new deacon Daniel Howard from St. Columba’s, Anfield talks about his call to ordination.
Daniel, 24, was born and raised in Liverpool. After attending secondary school at St. Margaret’s High, as it was then known, Daniel read Theology at Liverpool Hope University between 2008 and 2011.
It was during his formative teenage years that he first felt the call to ordination. However, as Daniel explains, it was not readily apparent: “I was taken to Church from a young age, and if I’m completely honest, until I was 14 or 15 I wanted to be somewhere else.” Whilst Daniel didn’t want to be stuck in Church, this never hindered his belief in God. Daniel claims that he “always had an inquisitive mind”, faith emerged suddenly, “at 10 or 11 I remember avidly watching the BBC series Son of God, presented by Jeremy Bowen, so much so, that I had asked my Dad to record it for future reference.” One point in the series hit Daniel strongly, for Bowen suggested that he’d discovered the truth about Jesus and the resurrection “This hit me, his end result was this: ‘you either believe it or you don’t’. I remember consciously saying to myself, I believe it!”
At this point Daniel had just started at St. Margaret’s: “I could tell that something was happening, based on this new conviction, I wanted to know more about God and be open to him, this need was met in my RE classes”. These events led to Daniel’s confirmation a few years later at St. Matthew & St. James, Mossley Hill, his family Church. “Following my confirmation at the hands of Bishop James, I received Holy Communion for the first time. This was a moment I would never forget; I felt a sudden outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it was remarkable”. This was just one component in Daniel’s call. A few weeks after this momentous event another had a profound effect; “the death of John Paul II struck me. I was gripped by the media coverage and remember vividly his words ‘do not be afraid to give yourself to Christ’. I found the sacrificial nature of the priestly ministry powerful. I wanted to give myself in this way”. Following these two events Daniel became aware of the catholic tradition in the Church of England; “I discovered the catholic tradition which deeply connected with me and nurtured my own spirituality which gradually became more and more eucharistic”.
Daniel followed up his sense of call through regular meetings with the assistant DDO as he finished A levels and began University. His sense of calling did not diminish as an undergraduate; “my call was strengthened by the Christian environment of Liverpool Hope – a place committed to theology and prayer… my sense of call grew as a result of studying theology at degree level and through participating in the life of the chaplaincy”. Whilst at Liverpool Hope, Daniel worked in retail to support himself financially, “retail experience certainly gave me a perspective on the ‘real world’ and its people, whilst this was not always easy, it was beneficial”. Following his degree Daniel started work at as a Pastoral Assistant at St. Cuthbert’s Croxteth Park and as part of the chaplaincy team at Liverpool Hope. “I love being part of both communities, being a pastoral assistant gave me a real sense of the nuts and bolts of parish life, liturgical, pastoral and social. The University provided a different experience of ministry, one which I was particularly keen to explore”. It was during this year that Daniel attended a BAP and was recommended for training. “I started training at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford in October 2012. I was attracted to this college for its distinctive catholic spirituality, rigorous formation, strong academic emphasis and liturgical excellence”. Daniel completed a Master of Studies in Ecclesiastical History and focussed his work on Thomas Cranmer’s use of Augustine of Hippo in the eucharistic rite of the 1549 Prayer Book. “I sensed that the call to ordination was still growing and I became increasingly aware, in the words of the ordinal that this is not fulfilled by ones own strength. St Stephen’s House helped me realise that if one is to exercise ordained ministry it is one that has to be absolutely grounded in prayer, Word and Sacrament”. Daniel is to serve his curacy at St. Columba’s, Anfield with Fr Ray Bridson. “I am very much looking forward to starting at St. Columba’s, a parish that is firmly within the catholic tradition and is committed to community work and outreach through presence. I can’t wait to get to know the people and engaging with the youth of the parish and in the local school – this was something I experienced as a Pastoral Assistant, and I’m looking forward to it as a Curate”. Daniel’s biggest hope for the future is “to try and live the Gospel, which is the fullness of life, within this community of faith and so encourage others to engage with the life of the Church which is the life of Christ”.